Community Outreach and Free Store

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Community Outreach

In January 2011, Inn from the Cold – Kelowna started a year-round Outreach and Case Management program in response to the need to do more for our guests than provide a warm meal and shelter from the elements.

At the Inn, volunteers and staff become intimately aware of the challenges and suffering that people face living on the street, particularly their vulnerability and need for additional support become evident. It was clear that follow-up assistance to our guests to address challenges/barriers which characteristically had them incapacitated – starting with housing – was an obvious and urgent next step.

This professional addition to our mainly volunteer team has allowed us to provide a different level of service to our guests and other experiencing homelessness in our community through case planning.

Program clients are former or current guests as well as those living on the street outside of the shelter setting.

Case work begins with a meeting between the outreach worker and the client, in which the client identifies changes that they would like to see in their lives. The client sets long term goals and the outreach worker assists in breaking down their goals into small, manageable steps, and then provides support in navigating the complex service/agency systems in order to meet those goals. The outreach worker also discusses current or potential barriers that are preventing the client from making the change they wish to see.

Five key area of support that are provided by the outreach worker to clients are:

1. Housing

The outreach worker provides assistance in accessing transitional housing as well as finding appropriate market housing. For transitional housing, the outreach worker provides referrals to appropriate housing programs, and clients are provided education and access to computer and online listings of market housing. In the pursuit of market rentals, the outreach worker provides support and education regarding how to speak with landlords (i.e. questions to ask potential landlords, or how to discuss welfare appropriately, etc.), transportation, and access to funds for damage deposits or rental supplements.

2. Medical Resources

The outreach worker directs clients to appropriate medical resources, makes appointments, and assists with transportation if mobility is a barrier for a particular client. Additional support is provided when follow up is required by a physician, i.e. blood tests, x-rays, etc.

3. Mental Health

The outreach worker is able to provide referrals to mental health services, however the majority of the work done with clients is motivational interviewing and solution-focused discussion to combat the stigmatization of mental illness and to refocus on the ‘bigger picture’ of wellness. In reaction to high levels of apprehension and anxiety, the outreach worker accompanies many clients to their appointments until a trusting relationship is established with the mental health agency/staff.

4. Addictions Treatment

If a client struggles with substance addiction but is not treatment ready, the outreach worker discusses harm reduction practices to reduce the amount of harm experienced by the client in relation to their substance use, as well as uses motivational interviewing techniques to inspire and encourage the client to pursue a healthier lifestyle in relation to their goals. Once a client is ready and committed to accessing treatment, the outreach worker provides referrals to A&D counselors, support groups, detox, and treatment centres.

5. Ministry of Social Development

The outreach worker provides assistance in applying for income assistance, nutritional supplement allowance, public transportation program, etc. The outreach worker also provides transportation, accompaniment to interviews, and acts as a liaison between clients and the ministry.

Free Store

Our free store is an organic evolution of our shelter and outreach programs. Our generous community provides us with an abundance of donations, particularity during the winter months. Our shelter has very little space in which to store theses donations. Out of our office space our outreach team connects with individuals while they live on the streets, reside in our shelter or once they obtain housing.

We have set up a Free Store space that is filled with clothing, outdoor gear and toiletries that is available to both the guests of our shelter and the community at large. This store has been a great engagement point for those in the community needing access to community information and outreach support as well as for our shelter guests.

The free store is currently open between 10:00 – 12:00 Tuesday – Friday, and true to our organizational structure, is volunteer run.