Street Outreach: A Person-Centered Approach to Ending Homelessness

At Lex End Homelessness (LEH), we believe that safe, stable, and affordable housing is the solution to ending and preventing homelessness. We follow a Housing First model, which means that we believe that people do not have to meet any stipulation or precondition to be considered “housing ready.” A Housing First model also prioritizes those most in need of housing or those who may be in crisis. Street outreach is one way that we connect unhoused community members with housing and other supportive resources.

What is Street Outreach?

Street outreach is a part of homelessness intervention services.

Street outreach takes place on more than just streets. Street outreach involves connecting with anyone experiencing unsheltered homelessness, including people living in encampments, city parks, abandoned buildings, their vehicles, or other unfit living locations. 

Street outreach teams also take an individualized and person-centered approach to ensure that everyone receives access to the other services and resources that are appropriate for each person’s needs and goals. 

For example, many people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are currently facing or have faced addiction or mental illness. Street outreach can help connect people to treatment options, but this is not a precondition of receiving outreach services or housing support. 

And finally, street outreach is based on progressive engagement, which means that teams can’t force individuals to accept support, but they will keep trying. It can take many points of contact to build rapport or for a person to become comfortable accepting support.

What Are the Goals of Street Outreach? 

To meet basic needs. To treat everyone with dignity and respect. And to connect people experiencing unsheltered homelessness to safe, stable, and affordable housing options.

What Do Street Outreach Teams Do?

Street outreach teams:

  1. practice assertive, targeted outreach and other engagement strategies to increase participation in and access to all available resources.
  2. offer, with participant consent, direct mental health and/or substance abuse treatment services, including screening and assessment.
  3. incorporate housing-focused Intensive Case Management (ICM) services to link and retain participants in permanent housing.
  4. assist participants in applying for mainstream benefits, including completing SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) applications.
  5. support encampment relocation services in accordance with OHPI’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
  6. provide a collaborative framework with local community partners across Lexington to share information, with participant’s consent and in accordance with all privacy and HIPAA requirements, to improve outcomes for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. 

Because there are so many moving parts and every individual has unique needs, finding sustainable housing options and relocating people from streets or encampments takes time. Despite the challenging conditions of the last several years, street outreach teams have made, and are continuing to make, a tangible difference for many individuals experiencing homelessness in Fayette County. 

Who Does Street Outreach Work in Lexington?

Street outreach is a collaborative effort between LEH partners and the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention (OHPI) here in Lexington. Right now, street outreach is operated by the Community Action Council (CAC), The Hope Center, and Lexington Rescue Mission. CAC also partners with New Vista for mental health support.

The Assertive Street Outreach (ASO) team, run by CAC, accepts referrals from program and community partners, such as local law enforcement, community paramedicine, local hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and OHPI. ASO typically operates between 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, including drop-in hours and street-based outreach services, with early morning and/or late evening shifts occurring each week as needed and in accordance with best practices. The ASO Team also accepts after-hour calls until 8:00 p.m., with follow-up occurring on the next business day.

Who Can I Contact About Street Outreach?

If you see or know someone who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Lexington or you come across an encampment, reach out to the CAC at 859-233-4600. They will make contact and work with the client to determine the next best steps. 

However, street outreach does not cover all concerns related to unhoused individuals. If your concern is regarding crime, violence, drug use, or aggressive panhandling, please contact local law enforcement. 

To assist local Street Outreach teams as the winter season approaches, reach out to the CAC to provide donations of winter weather gear such as warm gloves and socks. You can also get involved with LEH by visiting our website, joining the Continuum of Care, donating to the LEH campaign, or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.