By Karen Hurt
Home to many of us is the four walls and roof over our heads; however, Indianapolis is also home to people who may be invisible, without a permanent address or structure to call home.
About a year ago, I went out with some members of the Professional Blended Street Outreach Team who serve our city’s homeless population. I shadowed the group as a part of my company’s involvement with the Know Outlets campaign and it completely changed my view of what “home” means to many in our city.
The Professional Blended Street Outreach Team is a consortium providing first-response services for Indianapolis’ homeless population. The teams are made up of 43 professionals from 16 organizations including local law enforcement, nonprofits, and health and mental health entities. These teams serve as the front line of service for providing basic food and supplies to people experiencing homelessness, with the goal of developing a relationship with each person encountered and connecting him or her with the resources to eventually transition them into permanent housing.
One of the social workers explained to me that people who live under bridges, in camps or on the street feel that the city is as much their home as I do. Many people live in the same area where they grew up, even if they don’t live in places most of us would consider permanent shelter. Many of these folks see the outdoors or their spot of the world as home.
Outreach team members create relationships with our neighbors experiencing homelessness, as it is sometimes just a real conversation and a relationship with an outreach worker who cares to get people the medical or mental health care they need. This relationship could also be the catalyst to eventually find permanent housing.
In conversations with outreach workers, I quickly learned that there is no single solution to homelessness, but keeping those members of our community invisible is not a way to reach any kind of solution. You can learn more about the work of Professional Blended Street Outreach Teams at www.knowoutlets.org.
Karen Hurt supports nonprofit organizations at Bohlsen Group. She works with specialized leads to make sure clients’ goals are being met, not just for communications, but for the organization’s mission as a whole. A former nonprofit employee, Karen has worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and the Chicago Humanities Festival, which gives her unique understanding into the unique dynamics of how nonprofit organizations operate behind the scenes.