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:
- Of those document ready, how long is it taking to get these people into housing?
- How many people move into housing?
- 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.