By LANA HARRISON | Downtown Partnership
When the staff of the small outreach team at the Downtown San Diego Partnership hit the streets every morning, they never quite know what the day will bring.
It could be a day they finally have a breakthrough with someone they’ve been interacting with for a while. It could be a day a family member of a client happily agrees to provide them stable housing.
Or it could be a day when smiles are exchanged, introductions are made, but a next step will have to wait for a different time.
Now, this award-winning team of four has recently grown to a team of six (with plans to expand to eight) thanks to new Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funding the program received from the city of San Diego, the San Diego Housing Commission, and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
Not only will this funding enable the team to broaden their toolkit of resources within their existing Downtown footprint, but additional outreach staff have begun making connections in the surrounding neighborhoods of Balboa Park, Bankers Hill, Hillcrest, Golden Hill, Barrio Logan, and Logan Heights.
Since 2012, more than 2,800 people have been reunited with supportive extended family through the Downtown Partnership’s Family Reunification Program. These crucial support systems assist individuals in their transition from homelessness to stable, permanent housing.
Sometimes, an individual may have come to San Diego with an offer of employment that didn’t work out. With no support here and with no resources to get back to loved ones, they find themselves sleeping on the streets. Other times, an individual may have lost contact with their family members for years — family members that are then elated to hear from our team that their brother/sister/cousin wants to reconnect with them.
In partnership with Traveler’s Aid, the outreach staff works diligently to locate and connect with family and loved ones who can provide a safe and supportive home to someone experiencing homelessness.
Once someone is reunited with their support system, the team follows up with them after three months, six months, and one year, to hear how they’re doing and celebrate their successes.
Of those the team is able to reach, more than 70% remain stably housed after six months.
A significant shift in the program came in 2017, when it received funding from the San Diego Housing Commission and re-branded to the Family Reunification Program (FRP). Since 2017 alone, the program has reunited more than 1,600 people with their loved ones. Recently, the team surpassed their fiscal-year goal of serving 800 clients.
In taking what the team calls a person-centric approach to outreach, if FRP is not the right fit for someone, the coordinators seek to understand their needs and connect them to the right resources.
Important to this effort are strong relationships with other case managers, outreach workers, and service providers who can help someone with the next step of their journey.
In fact, the DSDP outreach team recently became members of 211’s Coordinated Information Exchange, which will enable them to better track and share data that will improve the care and resources provided to people they’re getting to know.
The team’s expansion will undoubtedly come with new opportunities, challenges, and chances for learning. For now, you can find them around town in their bright unmistakable “Maui Blue” T-shirts, hearing people’s stories and making transformative connections.