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What Is Street Engagement?

Posted on 07/02/2021
Homeless Outreach

Street-Based Engagement is a strategy that LA City and LA County has developed, refined and implemented over the last 20 years.  Fundamentally, street-based engagement is not merely about making contact with people living on the street, but “engaging” with them to create a relationship and forge a level of trust to encourage unsheltered individuals to reveal their needs and provide the space for clinical diagnoses and treatment, if appropriate.

Successful street-based engagement relies on regular engagement where a team or teams will interact often with a particular encampment, get to know the people living there, assess their housing and psychosocial needs and create an individualized housing and services plan for each person at an encampment.  Successful street-based engagement, then, is predicated on the timely access to the appropriate housing and specialized services needed by each client to fulfill their individualized housing plan.

This is why successful street-based engagement should have: (1) dedicated street outreach personnel that can provide regular, if not daily outreach, encampment by encampment; (2) swift access to specialized beds and services (substance use beds, mental health beds, recuperative care beds, tertiary-level mental health services); and critically, (3) sufficient housing resources (short- and long-term rental assistance, and a ready supply of landlords with vacant housing units to place clients).

Successful street-based engagement should also offer sanitation services at the behest of the street-based teams – so that sanitation is offered as a service to create hygienic outdoor spaces both for those living outside and the rest of the public. To implement this effectively, the sanitation teams should be deployed at the request of the street-based engagement teams, both while they engage unsheltered individuals, and at the point of rehousing.

In the next 30 days, the City will develop and implement a standardized Street Engagement Policy that would be enacted before any restrictions take place and would be deployed first at all locations where restrictions are contemplated.  Much of the foundational work to create a standardized Street Engagement Policy is already underway through multiple Council motions, which are pending reports. In addition, there are two documents from partner organizations that will provide additional underpinning to an eventual Citywide Street Engagement Policy: The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority document released this morning: “Best Practices for Addressing Street Encampments” – which is a companion piece to United Way’s recently-released “The Street Strategy for LA County.”