Street Outreach Services, bringing help to homeless
From the Department of Health and Human Services:
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staffers take to the streets each week, heading out on foot or in an RV to locate and help people experiencing homelessness, providing them with services and sustenance.
The DHHS Street Outreach Services (SOS) program delivers mental health, public health and social services to homeless people, especially those experiencing mental illness. Regular services are provided in Eureka, Manila and McKinleyville. Additional services are offered as needed in outlying communities in the county. SOS serves between 75 and 90 people every month.
“The SOS program and the other Mobile Outreach vehicles DHHS operates are critical service access points for our outlying communities,” said DHHS Director Phillip R. Crandall. “They provide both a broad array of direct services and referrals to other regional sites the department supports or partners with, such as Family Resource Centers, schools and clinics. They, in effect, are the glue that binds together a rural safety net DHHS is working to strengthen further.”
SOS services are provided in multiple ways. A specially converted recreational vehicle travels to sites where homeless people congregate or camp. SOS staffers also walk around in areas of Eureka frequented by homeless people, as well as along county beaches and river shores. Additionally, SOS responds to requests from businesses and citizens about people who appear to need help.
“SOS staff members spend time getting to know homeless individuals,” said DHHS Senior Program Manager Sally Hewitt, who oversees SOS and related programs. “This relationship-building encourages the trust necessary to engage in services. Homeless people are offered food, hygiene kits, socks and conversation. When ready, the staff can help people apply for mainstream benefits, assist in getting identification, help find housing, arrange for mental health assessment and services, and arrange for medical care and other services as needed.”
In addition, SOS provides case management and mental health services through DHHS’ permanent supportive housing program, Humboldt Housing, which serves those who are chronically homeless and have a serious mental illness. Currently, six people are housed through this program, Hewitt said, which receives funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. SOS helps homeless people find other housing as well, such as rooms in clean and sober houses and other low-cost residential units.
SOS is part of DHHS’ Mobile Outreach program, which serves residents in the county’s more remote communities, providing an array of DHHS services that people may not be able to access otherwise due to transportation, financial or health-related difficulties.
“Mobile Outreach workers bring services to those who do not or cannot access traditional services,” Hewitt said. “We also work to identify and reduce barriers to care and to increase the use of available services.”