New outreach workers hit the streets

Four new outreach workers are now on the streets as part of a plan by Minneapolis and Hennepin County to end homelessness in the next decade.

City officials earmarked $100,000 in the city’s 2007 budget for the outreach workers, who will work toward the goals outlined in the "Heading Home Hennepin" plan to end homelessness. St. Stephen’s Human Services, 2211 Clinton Ave. S., was chosen to run the outreach pilot program and has leveraged additional money from the state — $97,000 for two years — and private sector, according to Cathy ten Broeke, the city-county coordinator to end homelessness. Monica Nilsson, a homelessness worker, is the coordinator for the pilot and oversees three additional outreach workers. They began their work Oct. 1.

The team will focus on two areas, according to ten Broeke. The outreach workers will target "hot spots" where people experiencing homelessness tend to
congregate.

"They’re working closely with the Minneapolis Police Department, and they are focusing on areas of the city and times of day that the police have identified that they are spending time addressing issues with people who have no permanent address that really aren’t police issues and that would really be much more appropriate for outreach workers to address," ten Broeke said.

The outreach workers will also target specific individuals who are experiencing long-term homelessness and who have had repeated interaction with law enforcement. A Hennepin County study showed that 266 individuals were responsible for 66,000 jail and shelter stays over the last five years, and ten Broeke said the outreach workers will focus on the top 30–60 people on that list to try to break the cycle of
homelessness.

The outreach workers will strive to be visible in the community, ten Broeke said, and will work to make progress on the goals outlined in the "Heading Home Hennepin" plan. According to the request for proposals (RFPs) distributed by the city this spring to find an organization to coordinate the outreach workers, future funding for the program will be contingent on the actual outcomes achieved by the outreach workers.

Ten Broeke said she is also pleased with the progress made on increasing the housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. "Everything comes back to housing. We can have all the outreach services in the world, but if we don’t have housing to get people into, we’re not going to be successful," she said.

More information can be found at headinghomehennepin.org.