Last night was a first in Cleveland-a discussion between the students and religious folks who go outside and serve homeless people with the "professional" staff hired to serve the population. We had Jim Schlecht, Toni Johnson, Michael Lawson and Karen McHenry (pictured above in order left to right) who lead the discussion. This was a chance for Labre students, groups representing various churches and other agencies to get together to talk about the goals and issues associated with serving people who live outside. The first order of business was to give a standing ovation to Mike from St. Ignatius and St. Augustine for his patience in finding housing for the stroller lady who has been on the streets for much of the last 20 years. Nuns on the near West Side had found her housing about eight years ago, but she quickly lost the housing. We hope that she keeps her housing, but it was a huge step to build a trusting relationship with her to convince her to go inside.
We had around 30 people attend the training/teach in, and that included a couple of representatives from the Homeless Congress who had experience with homelessness. The agenda was to discuss who exactly stays outside with Karen of Bellefaire talking a great deal about young people who we do not always think about when talking about homelessness. Michael from Frontline did a very good overview of some of the safety issues he reminds his staff about before they go outside. Jim of Care Alliance talked a lot about "compassionate relationships" for those on the streets. We discussed putting aside expectations and working with the existing social service provides to "hand people" into the capable hands of others. Toni talked about the resources available to veterans and warned everyone of the resources drying up for women and families. Of course, the training dealt with ethical issues and boundaries necessary to do some of this work. Finally, we all contributed some often overlooked resources in the community that might be available to those living outside. We talked about ways to get people into detox and to use the Youth Hotline that is available 24 hours a day (570-8010). Finally, there was a discussion of the Seasons of Hope safe haven for women.
NEOCH had a couple of resources available to the group. We talked about the Street Card and how valuable that could be to homeless people. NEOCH has also produced a bright green card for those who go outside to use. This card can be left at a campsite if there is no one home when you stop by. It has the direct phone numbers to those who are paid to assist homeless people. It gives drop in center locations and times along with meals available downtown. Finally, we introduced the new outreach trainee funded by the Community West Foundation. His name is Tyrone H. and he started last week. This was a chance for all these groups to be introduced to him and he will be shadowing all the outreach teams locally to learn and pass along information. Tryrone will be a link between the volunteer groups and the professional staff typically out during the day. We will do a longer look at Tyrone and his job in a follow up post. We will also have another training in September when many of the students have returned from summer break.
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