Skip to content

Editorial: Outreach workers are critical to addressing homelessness

Outreach staff can build trust over time and act as a connection point to resources
Hiring outreach staff from within the community has allowed for relationships to be formed with vulnerable members, says Angela George, director of community development for Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Having a place to call home is a human right, but getting a vulnerable person into a stable living situation isn’t as easy as simply giving them a key.

Homelessness and the reasons for it are complex problems.

One key to finding permanent solutions is an on-the-ground human connection willing to work with those that various agencies seek to help.

It’s an approach that has been successful both at home and abroad.

In Houston, Texas, which has been hailed as a shining example of how to reduce homelessness at the large-city level, part of the success story has been attributed to outreach workers.

Instead of police forcefully clearing out camps, outreach staff went to sites weeks ahead of time to listen to the needs and concerns of people living there. With that approach, transitioning people into more stable housing became less of a hurdle.

A recent initiative on the North Shore has involved similar hiring of outreach staff with connections to the communities they serve.

These are people who can develop relationships over time and build trust, which after years of disenfranchisement from the wider society can be difficult to repair. They can also help connect people with resources that are often essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

The pandemic exposed even more gaps in our already treacherous economy. High inflation this year will only add to woes. Many people are just a paycheque away from homelessness themselves.

While the urge to consider homelessness someone else’s problem remains strong, respecting the human right of housing will require boldness from politicians to properly secure stock. But the new resources being given to human supports now is a foot in that door.

What are your thoughts? Send us a letter via email by clicking here or post a comment below.