Twice a day — every morning and afternoon — staff from the Street Outreach Collaborative (SOC) complete van runs, driving to various stops in Portland to provide food, clothing, and other basic needs to people living outside. These stops are also a chance for caseworkers to check in with unsheltered clients to see what other needs they can help them meet, set up appointments with them or connect them with other resources.
“Our casework consists of filling immediate needs, like shelter for the night, acquiring benefits, IDs, food, clothes, or someone to talk to,” says Theo (he/him), a Street Outreach caseworker. “We occasionally do outreach into the woods where there are encampments. We refer clients to longer-term programs that can get them where they want to be.”
Along with meeting clients where they’re at — at encampments or on the street — SOC staff bring clients into their office space to connect over a cup of coffee and some soup. Sometimes this is to work on something concrete, like filling out paperwork or applying for programs, other times it’s a chance for the client to talk and share what is happening in their lives.
“There is this great sense of community, with our clients and with each other, says Henry Myer (he/him), SOC Director. “We’re bricklayers. We’re here to build a foundation, day over day with clients and to create more opportunities and more ports of entry for clients to help themselves reach their goals.”