New video shot by Grant McKenzie, the director of communications at Our Place, details the daily operations of the organization’s Dandelion Street Outreach Program.
The program works to get resources to people experiencing homelessness who tend to stay away from the city’s centre in parks and on the outskirts of Victoria.
Seeing the daily operations of the outreach program, McKenzie said, is a hope-renewing venture.
“One of the men I spoke to has only been out of jail for two weeks. He had no support, he didn’t know where to turn. Being able to connect with someone like that and say, you know, we can get you these supports – especially if we can catch people before they head into self-medicating, which is what you do a lot of times when you’re on the streets – I think that is extremely valuable work.”
Going on the road also allows him to better understand why people are isolating outside the city’s centre.
While being close to Our Place can offer proximity to resources, it can also pose obstacles to sobriety because it is across the street from resources like The Harbour, which offers a safe use space for people who are struggling with addiction.
However, the main factors for hunkering down in parks and spaces away from Our Place, McKenzie said, are the stigma around being unhoused, the idea that isolation is safer and the fact that those who are recently on the streets haven’t built up connections or a community.
“They protect themselves by isolating and unfortunately, that also makes them more vulnerable, but it’s a very understandable condition, that isolation aspect.”
Stef Bergen, who has been working with the street outreach team since July, said the main job of the team is to find out what resources are needed in those spaces.
“We see a lot of people from out of town who don’t know what resources are offered and need things like doctors, mental health care and addiction care.”
As for the effectiveness of the program, McKenzie saw firsthand the powerful results that can come from meeting people where they are in their struggle.
“It’s been operating for at least a year and I think it’s been really good. Especially when I was out with Stef and Dianne and I heard there was one young man who had gone into detox. Also, several of the men had been able to get into shelter, into housing.”
Earning the trust required to help people get these resources is one of the most valuable parts of the work that the street outreach team is doing, McKenzie said.
“When people are hiding away in isolation it’s because they don’t trust anybody, especially people in authority positions. I think that Stef and Dianne did such a good job of breaking down those barriers and earning that trust and slowly working with people to get them into shelter and get them onto the list for housing.”
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