Today we’re talking about John. He first came onto the Outreach radar early January as a missing person. His family as well as APD reached out to SMHC to help find him. John had only recently become homeless and had never experienced homelessness before. We discovered him at the Winter Shelter and he had been accessing services around town. His family was contacted and they came to town to lend their support. We, the Outreach team, were happy to help him. We explicitly explained to the family that we worked for John and his wishes were our utmost concern. As with any client in Outreach, it all begins with the establishment of a relationship, and we were going to go at the clients pace. As it turns out, we saw John at different locations around town nearly every day and every night at the Winter Shelter. He was reticent with almost every encounter and we respected that. As with everyone, people just don’t realize that a smile goes a long way, and in Outreach a smile is huge.
The clock was ticking as we anticipated the closing of the Winter Shelter. His family was concerned about where John would stay when that happened, and we were concerned with 200+ other clients who were facing the same fate. Every option we presented was met with a friendly “No, I am okay thank you”. A breakthrough came when John articulated that when he needed the help he knew where to find us. We were willing to take the baby steps necessary to maintain a relationship on John’s terms. John is currently camping out with a group of friends he made since becoming homeless, and he continues to access services around town including SMHC. John was aware that the Outreach had communication with his sister, as we let John know about the death of his grandfather. He appreciated the contact and trust was established.
John was on disability for an early bipolar diagnosis and was receiving disability. His SSI stopped when he didn’t cash a check and the system stopped all deposits into his account, which lead to an inability to pay his rent which lead to his homelessness. John also did not have an ID. It became apparent to the Outreach team that we needed to have John’s permission to be in communication with his family, in the form of a release of information. John’s sister came to town and we assisted her in locating John so that she might help facilitate John getting an ID and reestablish his SSI. John signed the release of information form, agreeing to all communication with his family. With the help of shelter services, he obtained an ID and his SSI was reinstated. He will be turning 50 years old in May and has agreed to visit his family for the occasion. John articulated the idea that living in an apartment might be easier than what he is doing now. We let him know that just because he becomes housed does not mean that he will have to leave his community of friends and that he can access shelter services anytime he wants as many clients do. There are now possibilities for John and we’re ready to be there with what he wants, on his terms.