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Seattle hires 3 more outreach workers for the homelessness crisis

Tents are a common sight on Seattle streets. (AP)

Seattle is putting more than $244,000 up to hire three more outreach workers to combat the homelessness crisis.

The city of Seattle completed an RFQ process this month to local service providers. It selected Evergreen Treatment Services (specifically its Reach program) to provide three new outreach personnel to work with the city’s homeless community, become a point of contact, and assist with getting people off the street and into housing.

The funds are for April 2019 through December 2019. Renewal in 2020 is possible based on performance and if funds are available.

The Reach program is familiar to Seattle. Reach personnel work with the city’s Navigation Team, that also includes police officers.

“On average, the Reach team with our Navigation Team says it takes about four or six times to get people to even consider coming into a shelter,” said Meg Oldberding with Seattle’s Human Services Department. “So that’s important context of why we are pleased to put additional outreach teams on the streets. It is very delicate and it takes a little bit longer than I think some people think.”

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The Reach program engages with people living outside and specializes in substance abuse disorders. The three new Reach workers will target First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the International District.

The outreach process means taking time to build relationships and trust with people living outside. Having a familiar face do this work in an area is more effective in getting people off the street into shelters, services, and permanent housing.

In total, the city already contracts with nine such service providers in various parts of the city, and for various populations. The new outreach workers could be considered a 10th effort on the part of the city, but the city is already using Reach with Seattle’s Navigation Team.

“(Reach workers) have referral capabilities, both to a shelter and to Evergreen Treatment Center’s programs,” Oldberding said.

“We have a continuum of outreach workers who go out and help people who are living outside and try to connect them with services,” she said. “The Navigation Team is one, these (new) individuals will be others, we have a similar situation in Ballard. So we have different outreach partners who do work with us. Some work with our Native communities, so this is additional outreach support …. This is really just augmenting that.”

The city’s combined homelessness effort has proven successful in some respects. Seattle moved more people from homelessness to permanent housing in 2018 than in 2017 – an increase of 17 percent.

The three new outreach workers will also act as a point of contact for the area’s businesses and community members “who are interested in maintaining or creating safe and vibrant communities and generating solutions to homelessness.”

Seattle’s outreach contractors

  • Seattle Indian Center: $192, 379; 2 personnel; serving Native Americans, all populations and trafficked individuals
  • YouthCare: $271,560; 3 personnel; serving youth on Capitol Hill and the U District
  • DESC: $267,774; 4.5 personnel; serving severely mentally ill adults
  • Evergreen Treatment Services: $742,334; 8 personnel; serving adults
  • Mary’s Place: $180,327; .5 people; serving families with children
  • Chief Seattle Club: $105,819; 1 person; serving Native Americans, all populations
  • Mother Nation: $286,919 (with Seattle Indian Health Board); 1 person; serving Native Americans, all populations
  • Seattle Indian Health Board: $286,919 (with Mother Nation); 1 person; serving Native Americans, all populations
  • Urban League of Seattle: $275,246; 2 personnel, serving people of color, all populations
  • YouthCare: $248,186; 4 personnel; serving young adults at program sites
  • New Horizons: $197,000; 2 personnel; serving young adults at program sites

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