As a new staff member at GMC, I am settling into my role as communications coordinator and learning about homelessness, mental health and the housing process for homeless individuals in Washington, D.C. Last week I tagged along to a housing meeting with Sabrina Burrell, GMC’s social worker. We gathered with other homeless advocacy groups and local government officials in an effort to “pair” homeless individuals with housing providers.
I learned that pairing is an essential part of the housing process. Outreach workers across D.C. build relationships with people living on the street and, once trust is built, perform assessments to determine levels of vulnerability and need. This information is added to a homeless management database and opens the door to housing opportunities. At the housing meeting last week social workers spoke about the habits, assessment scores and mental health of specific homeless individuals. Once those thoughts were shared, homeless people were paired with housing providers who can best advocate and manage the rest of the housing process for them.
In addition to assessments and pairings, people experiencing homelessness must obtain items like ID cards, birth certificates and SSI to ensure their ability to acquire a housing voucher and move off the streets.
It’s a challenging process and mental illness often clouds the minds of the most vulnerable, convincing them they don’t need housing. GMC and other homeless advocacy groups continue to perform street outreach and provide case management despite this resistance. I am impressed and inspired by the dedication of GMC staff and other advocates across the city. It’s this kind of work that will lead to a lasting solution to homelessness.
-Sarah Hartley, GMC Communications Coordinator