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News / Clark County News

Council for the Homeless’ outreach request form helps identify homeless people in need of services

Outreach teams respond within 24 to 48 hours and try to get help for those in need

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 11, 2024, 6:08am
2 Photos
Council for the Homeless outreach team members Magellan Rankin, left, and Nina Rengechy take part in Point-in-Time Count near Interstate 205 on Jan. 25. A form on Council for the Homeless&rsquo; website lets members of the public to report someone who needs an outreach team.
Council for the Homeless outreach team members Magellan Rankin, left, and Nina Rengechy take part in Point-in-Time Count near Interstate 205 on Jan. 25. A form on Council for the Homeless’ website lets members of the public to report someone who needs an outreach team. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

From an apartment window in Vancouver, someone noticed a woman, bloodied and broken-nosed, living on the street.

That person filled out an outreach request form on Council for the Homeless’ website to share details about the woman’s location and the kind of help she seemed to need, said Rori Dicker, the agency’s outreach supervisor.

An outreach team arrived and discovered the bleeding woman had fled domestic violence. Council for the Homeless staff helped her get into a shelter. She’s now living in transitional housing and working on getting her own apartment, Dicker said.

“That was pretty amazing,” Dicker said. “Driving over there, I was like, ‘This is what was meant to happen.’ It was beautiful. It was absolutely beautiful.”

YOU CAN HELP

To contact a Council for the Homeless outreach team about a person living outside who needs help, fill out a community member form at https://www.councilforthehomeless.org/contact-outreach-staff/

GET HELP

If you are experiencing homelessness or struggling to stay in your home, call the Council for the Homeless Housing Hotline at 360-695-9677 to learn about available shelter and housing assistance in Clark County.

It’s been about a year since the Clark County nonprofit Council for the Homeless launched the form that lets community members tell outreach teams about someone living outside who needs help. An outreach team will respond within 24 to 48 hours.

The number of community forms submitted has grown to about 50 per week, Dicker said.

“We very much appreciate people using this form,” said Charlene Welch, Council for the Homeless’ development and communications director. “It is one way that we learn about people that we might not otherwise know of, or that there’s somebody we are engaging with who might be needing additional contact sooner rather than later.”

Outreach staff don’t want the form to become a way for people to complain about people living outside, Welch said.

“If I’m somebody who wants to have another person removed out of the park, the outreach team is not going to come and remove that person,” Welch said.

Instead, the form is meant for members of the public who see someone who may need assistance with medical care, navigating shelter or accessing other resources, Welch said.

Although Council for the Homeless works with seven outreach teams, there aren’t enough staff to respond to Clark County’s estimated 625 people living outside immediately, Welch said.

“This is not like calling 911. It is more likely that the outreach folks are going to get to that person within 24 to 48 hours versus … a response like a fire or ambulance, which we all hope for being just minutes,” she said.

Even though it can take some time, outreach staff have been able to connect with people who haven’t accessed services before, thanks to these community reports, Welch said.

It’s important to add as much detail as possible when filling out the form, Dicker said, so the outreach team can identify people even if they move. Those details can include names, contact information, a physical description, cross streets and a description of their tent or improvised shelter.

Now that the nonprofit has had this program for about a year, Dicker hopes to identify new areas of focus for outreach teams and what kind of resources are needed most.

“If you’re seeing people in different places, and it’s coming from a good intention and wanted to help, definitely submit a form and as much data as possible,” Dicker said.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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