Street Outreach

Street outreach involves moving outside the walls of an agency to engage with people experiencing unsheltered homelessness who may be disconnected and alienated not only from mainstream services and supports, but from the services targeting homeless persons as well. This is incredibly important work designed to help establish supportive relationships, give people advice and support, and hopefully enhance the possibility that they will access necessary services and supports that will help them move off the streets.


While there are different types of homelessness, street-based outreach teams serve those who the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers “literally homeless.” This is defined as, “an individual that has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation.”

Outreach workers have many different skills including homeless services navigation, mental health first aid, motivational interviewing, and trauma informed care, among others. Some teams even have physical health, mental health and substance use professionals. Outreach teams start by building a trusting relationship with and determining the needs of people living on the streets. Their efforts can be as simple as helping someone experiencing homelessness get an ID card or as complex as helping to meet medical and mental health needs. But the ultimate goal of outreach services? To help people who are homeless move from the streets into a permanent home.

Some people may require significant time to build trust. Others may be more readily open to help. Additionally, many of the households we engage with may require a wide range of services to secure and maintain housing. The process of connecting them to services that promote housing stability can be a lengthy one.

Regardless, everything we do is in partnership with those we serve, and is done in a way that fosters dignity and self-determination. Until there’s more shelter and affordable permanent housing, the process to get people indoors is slower than we would like. But through the investments of capital development funding from federal, state and local sources, there will be an increase in shelter beds and permanent housing over time. The commitment of our outreach teams, combined with expanded housing opportunities, will make a huge difference.