70:20:10 The Street Outreach Investment

Street outreach is often (wrongly) measured by the number of contacts made or the number of new people found and encountered.

We need to measure street outreach by its effectiveness of ending homelessness, not by any other metric. So, we need a re-think of how street outreach workers spend their time and how we value their work.

70% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent with document ready people getting them into housing.

20% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent with people that have consented to participate in getting housed, but need to be document ready and therefore require assistance getting documents in place.

10% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent trying to find new people.


And in outreach we should measure effectiveness of ending homelessness. Therefore, street outreach is mobile housing work. It requires the outreach worker to have all of the forms, data systems, and information necessary to move a person directly from living outdoors to living indoors and getting connected to the supports necessary to be successful long-term in housing. It is also, therefore, true that the metrics measured for an effective system of ending homelessness also applies to street outreach:

  1. Of those document ready, how long is it taking to get these people into housing?
  2. How many people move into housing?
  3. Of all of those moved into housing, how many return to homelessness?


If you want to measure this by population group (for example, veterans) or acuity level (for example, VI-SPDAT score) or household type (for example, families versus single adults versus unaccompanied youth versus childless couples) fill your boots.

Outreach only matters if it ends homelessness. Outreach can only matter if most of its time is spent working with those that can be housed. Otherwise, outreach is incredibly busy, but remarkably ineffective.



Iain De Jong

About Iain De Jong

4 Responses to “70:20:10 The Street Outreach Investment”

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  1. Iain, do you see a day when all outreach works in service of local coordinated entry systems? Gone should be the days when agencies employ outreach specialists to engage folks specifically for intake into their own programs and services, right? Are there examples of agencies that operate both coordinated entry systems and outreach as a function of assessment and housing navigation?

    • Iain De Jong Iain De Jong says:

      I think that is a discussion worth having in one to two years after coordinated entry takes hold, but one that we should plan for now.

  2. Luke Brown says:

    I am a outreach worker in Detroit employed by Southwest Solutions. Half of my time is spent navigating clients so that they are housing ready…obtaining ID, Social Security card, and any other paperwork necessary to qualify for PSH programs. I think that my numbers are more along the lines of 30/50/10/10. The last 10 being all of the paperwork that is necessary to keep my job along with participating in a coordinated entry system using HMIS. A lot of my clients living on the streets do not have proper documentation. In Michigan you basically have to be rain man to navigate our system to obtain an ID.

    I agree with the time spent on outreaching new clients. I am a quality vs.quantity kind of guy. To me it doesn’t matter if I have spoken with 500 different people if my efforts only result in a handful of individuals getting housed. To me that is a wast of time and resources, and does nothing to establish trust in the community.

    Next time you are in the area, feel free to travel with us as we hit the streets of Detroit…we promise a good time.

  3. David Jeffries says: