“When you don’t have basic necessities, your whole survival is on the line,” says Candace Weingart, our Resource Center Manager.
Weingart describes the tough challenges faced by clients served through the Street Outreach Program. “Many people feel lost and unseen, especially in places like East County where there are no bus lines after Concrete and people are further from services,” she said. “This puts our neighbors living in rural areas at greater risk for food insecurity.”
The Street Outreach Program addresses this challenge by first seeking out and building trust with clients. Our outreach staff recognize where individuals and families are at in their journey to stability and rely on these relationships to meet immediate basic needs. The team literally meets clients where they are — outside, at campgrounds, in the woods, or in vehicles and sheds — as well as allowing each person full control to proceed in any interaction at their own pace.
Monthly pop-up events around the community help staff connect with new and existing clients. The events on May 20 and 21 reached 31 individuals in Marblemount to provide assistance with Basic Food, disaster cash assistance, and more. The next Street Outreach pop-up takes place on August 26 and 27 in Marblemount. More information about this event can be found on the Community Action Facebook page or by contacting Val McCormack at: email@example.com or (360) 708-9408.
We initially established an Opioid Outreach staff position in partnership with Skagit County Public Health, with the goal to help people get into recovery. The target population is community members experiencing homelessness who have a substance use disorder to opioids, or a polysubstance disorder with opioid involvement. Our staff, volunteers and interns from Skagit Valley College build relationships with people living under bridges, gathering behind businesses, and receiving partner services such as free lunches.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became immediately clear to us that additional capacity was needed. We allocated funding for an additional Street Outreach staff member plus an Outreach Navigator. They meet with anyone experiencing homelessness who needs assistance navigating services in the community, with the ability to trouble-shoot client barriers such as vouchers, shelter options, other agency services, as well assisting with paperwork for clients and accessing additional basic needs supplies.
One interaction can mean a world of difference for an individual or family. Our staff recently helped a man call DSHS through the window of the office because he missed the deadline to renew his Basic Food application. “Not only was he able to get his Basic Food reinstated in one phone call,” Weingart shares, “but he also found out he was eligible for DCAP (disaster assistance cash) and could use the money for a motel while he looked for work. In many cases, one pivotal interaction builds trust and that relationship allows us to serve people far beyond the reason they initially connected with us.”
We are currently seeking ways to expand our Street Outreach network to other areas of Skagit County. If agencies are interested in establishing their own outreach staff or scheduling outreach trainings beginning this fall, please contact Candance Weingart at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 416-7585 x 1255.