As Angelenos, many of us walk down streets every day where people are sleeping in tents, resting under blankets or sitting in makeshift shelters. If we can, we offer some money or share some food, but usually we walk on, heavy-hearted, and vow to do more the next time.
But for outreach teams that work with unhoused Angelenos, the suffering on our streets is a call to action. These teams are dedicated to providing care that is at once quotidian and profound — not just handing out supplies, passing out food or administrating basic medical care, but also listening, empathizing, learning, building trust and recognizing the humanity of those who feel they have been left behind.
“They tell us, ‘No one has talked to me, no one has touched me. No one has offered me any help,’” says Tia, a registered nurse, works with unhoused people as part of St. Joseph’s outreach team. “And when we connect with them, they feel something. We bring them to our center, where they can take a shower, eat a meal, and feel human again. Everything that we do is trying to bring humanity back to that individual, to build their self-worth and reconnect them with life.”
Outreach teams hail from a diverse range of backgrounds — from peer counselors with lived experiences of homelessness, to mental health professionals, social workers and nurses. Their arsenal of skills must be broad enough to tackle the complex issues that drive folks into homelessness. “It’s really important to have a diverse team because the people we’re working with are diverse,” says Tia.
If you’d like to help these outreach teams, one of the best things you can do is to push your local representatives to build more housing in your area. It takes months of work to get people on the streets ready for housing, and the job of an outreach worker is only possible if there are enough available units to place people in.
Join the Everyone In team and learn how to push for more housing across L.A.