Providing case management and emergency outreach, attending and leading meetings and trainings, and traversing communities to identify individuals are just a few tasks that make up an outreach worker’s schedule. Rivera says she doesn’t confine herself to a daily routine, because every day is different. “I’ll come to the office to check my email and phone calls, but on my way I may get stopped walking through the parking lot.” Outreach workers focus on making one-on-one connections with people, but Crystal acknowledges that she’s only the starting point. “It’s not me making the change”, Rivera says “it’s me just guiding you to where the change can happen.”
While outreach workers make positive changes in the lives of others, they often face several challenges along the way. Having been trained in motivational interviewing, workers know to meet individuals where they are. This is especially utilized when dealing with veterans experiencing homelessness who may be dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, and/or PTSD. Other veterans experiencing homelessness may need help but are not open to receiving assistance. Rivera says, “It’s like they speak a different language. Because of this, it may take them a longer time to build that trust. You know, they were taught not to trust anyone outside of their command.”
Some challenges are inevitable, but that’s not stopping outreach teams from doing their part to make the 100 day challenge a success. Outreach teams are scaling up their efforts and are actively involved with VetLink at Homeless Point of Entry and a regional veterans housing workgroup. Currently, Rivera is in the planning stages of doing a ‘mini blitz’: where the outreach team and volunteers will target as many veterans as they can on the designated day. The team is also working to get connected, cover more precincts, and overall become more visible in the area surrounding Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in South Richmond.
With the 100 day challenge to house 110 homeless veterans as a start, Virginia is committed to ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We believe that no one who has served our country should ever go without a safe, stable place to call home.