The street outreach specialist is part of a coordinated street outreach team that identifies and engages people living in unsheltered locations, such as in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, encampments, and on the streets. The street outreach team members, individually and collectively, reach people who might not otherwise seek assistance or come to the attention of the homelessness service system and ensures that people’s basic needs are met while supporting them along pathways toward housing stability. Each Street Outreach Specialist is responsible for conducting outreach, providing information and referrals, completing assessments, intakes, performing short-term case management, and providing concrete services.
Outreach & Engagement Responsibilities:
Street outreach utilizes a person-centered approach, that inherently requires flexibility, patience, strong engagement techniques, and empathy.
- Provide targeted street outreach, assuring appropriate geographic coverage, to communities within Housing Forward’s service area to identify unsheltered homeless persons living on the streets or other places not meant for human habitation (e.g. storage facilities, forest preserves, etc.).
- Establish rapport and reduce harm by providing critical, life-saving resources such as food, water, clothing, blankets, and other necessities
- Determine the person’s immediate safety needs.
- Using a trauma-informed approach, provide crisis intervention, LGBTQ competent engagement techniques, and other skills and strategies as needed for engagement.
- Perform assessments and prioritize for assistance as sheltered person assessed through the coordinated entry process. Refer unsheltered families to the Family Support Specialist.
- Provide age-appropriate interaction with homeless youth encountered. When appropriate refers unsheltered youth to the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project Navigator
- Perform intake and complete VISPDATs as necessary.
- Work as a team with the other Street Outreach Specialists to alternate responsibilities and negotiate tasks to ensure safety protocols are met.
- Offer multiple opportunities to say ‘no’ and make repeated offers of assistance as necessary throughout the engagement process.
- Encounters and interactions are respectful and responsive to the beliefs and practices, sexual orientations, disability statuses, age, gender identities, cultural preferences, and linguistic needs of all individuals.
- Follow safety protocols for vulnerable populations that involve fleeing domestic violence, as well as dating violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or prostitution.
Service and Housing Coordination responsibilities:
Using a Housing First approach, Street Outreach does not impose preconditions to make referrals to permanent housing, shelter, or other temporary housing, such as sobriety, minimum income requirements, absence of a criminal record, completion of treatment, participation in services, or other unnecessary conditions.
- Make immediate connections to emergency shelters or temporary housing to provide safe options while individuals and families are on a pathway toward stability
- Make connections to stable housing with tailored services and supports of their choice, such as health and behavioral health care, transportation, access to benefits, and more.
- Perform warm handoffs to Coordinated Entry or to shelter, housing, and service providers (e.g. outreach staff may offer to physically accompany the individual to appointments to provide support).
- Be mindful of racial and other inequities and disparities among people experiencing homelessness and tailor and customize their efforts to ensure that equity is being achieved within their outreach activities and outcomes.
- Utilize problem-solving techniques to identify strengths and existing support networks, explore possible safe housing options outside the homelessness service system, such as reunification with family, and connect the individual to community supports and services.
Coordination with community stakeholder responsibilities:
- Establish working relationships with community stakeholders - law enforcement, libraries, first responders, hospitals, health and behavioral providers, townships, homeless education liaisons, faith-based organizations, and other community-based providers.
- Coordinate with street medicine team as applicable.
- Communicate and cooperate with staff from other programs as needed to ensure seamless delivery of service to clients.
- Provide training to community organizations regarding the services offered by the street outreach team as requested.
- Attend Outreach Committee meetings and other community stakeholder meetings as assigned
- Document all street outreach contacts and housing placements in the agency’s HMIS system in order to maintain a real-time by-name list.
- Follow the objectives of the program and understand the program’s performance measures.
- Collect and maintain program documentation and data.
- Enter client data into HMIS weekly.
- Be responsible for safety and proper use of cell phones and other equipment.
- Respond to calls/requests from the community (municipalities, libraries, schools, etc.) regarding individuals and families found to be living on the streets, cars or other place not meant for human habitation.
- Log activities and time as required by the agency and its funders.
- Attend team and agency meetings and trainings.
Minimum Qualifications and Skills:
- Embody non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources.
- Preference for persons with Lived Experience.
- 2+ years of experience performing Street Outreach or equivalent experience.
- Bilingual Spanish and English fluency highly desirable.
- Driver’s license, clean driving record, auto insurance, and access to personal vehicle.
- Willingness to obtain needed medical screens and immunizations such at TB test, COVID-19 test.
- Comfortable using a tablet in-the-field to document encounters.
- Proficient in utilizing trauma-informed care, de-escalation and crisis-intervention techniques.
- Ability to keep appointments punctually, be organized and demonstrate accountability and follow through.
- Openness to new ideas and skills and commitment to learning though reading and with hands-on-training.
- Ability to express ideas clearly and concisely both orally and in writing.
- Ability to problem-solve and make decisions in chaotic and/or stressful situations.
- Strong interpersonal and direct communication skills.
- Must have smartphone to utilize Agency communications and collaboration tools.
- Must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination
Work Environment/Physical Demands:
- Constant traveling and driving in western Cook County
- Must be able to lift 25 lbs.
- Extreme standing, walking, bending and lifting.
- Ability to tolerate being outdoors in all weather for several hours at a time.
- Excellent engagement skills.
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team.
- Knowledge of issues related to homelessness and poverty.
- Strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
- Bachelor’s degree in Social Work preferred or related field from an accredited college or university required with minimum of one-year experience working in social services.
- Familiarity with permanent housing options, mental health and substance abuse services, computer skills.
- Ability to communicate effectively in a diverse environment is a plus.
- Must have smartphone to utilize Agency communication and collaboration tools.
- Must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Ideal Qualities & Experiences