Homeless Street Outreach: from disengaged to valued and valuable

I first met Barry during Street Outreach early in 2018. He is an older gentleman, weathered, with messy gray hair, a messy gray beard, and fully aware of his appearance. He is divorced, estranged from his family, and suffers from panic attacks and anxiety.

He always showed kindness to myself and others, but was hesitant to accept support. He would not accept our offers of food besides what he ate at the Community Kitchen. Knowing that he travels on foot wherever he goes, we offered several times to help by getting him get a bike, but he always refused.

As tax season approached, Barry started to joke that there may finally be something he would let us help him with. He needed help mailing his tax return, and asked for an envelope and stamp. He also needed a return mailing address. At the same time, we were preparing to launch Refresh, a new program that offers a mailing address service, free showers, and other supports. He signed up for the mail service, and stayed for breakfast and a hot shower.

From that moment forward, we saw an immediate shift in his attitude, and a growing sense of pride. With every shower, he seemed to get better. Refresh also offers free haircuts once a month. His pride grew even more after his first haircut, and again with the second. He was not only able to attain a sense of pride in who he is, but also maintain it.

Barry grew more outgoing and engaged in his relationships. He began attending church, and asking us how to get connect with other services and resources. He began arriving early to Refresh to help and volunteer, asking about other ways he could serve. He was genuinely excited for the good summer weather, as he wanted to come weed and mow the lawn at our building. I later found out that one of his prayer requests were for flower donations to plant at our offices. Many times upon arrival for work in the morning staff have greeted him outside our office as he’s doing yard work. We’re grateful for the help!

Because of Street Outreach, we were able to make a first connection with Barry. Through Refresh, he found support to engage with the community he needed, and one that needed him. Through everything combined, he was able to reclaim a sense of belonging in his life, and restore his confidence, belief in the future, and ability to view himself as a human citizen of our community. Now, Barry’s role is of an active and engaged member of the community, feeling valued and valuable, and has venues to add value to what is around him. All of this is a drastic change from when we first met, when his kind-heartedness was rarely known, hidden behind a lifetime of barriers, with few chances to express it.

His renewed sense of self-worth and community are true measures of success, and will only help motivate him on his journey.

To learn more about the Homeless Street Outreach program, please contact us.

Contributor: Angela Maxwell, Homeless Outreach Specialist