The last two weeks have presented some interesting opportunities as I have continued to work with patients in the Asthma specialty clinic, attended more CIDP trainings and finished up my report on the We Are New York video series screenings and surveys.
About a day after I wrote my last post I attended and participated in a training session with Hospital to Home team members and a program called Common Ground, that H2H will be working closely with once the program gets fully under way.
This session with Common Ground was incredibly eye-opening. Common Ground works with homeless individuals to get them off the streets and into a stable living situation with the main long-term goal being to eventually permanently house those individuals who agree to work with Common Ground. The respresentative from Common Ground who ran the training session with H2H was Ed. He does street outreach and shared a lot of tools with H2H on how to approach people eligible for H2H who are homeless.
There was a lot of discussion on how to initially forge a safe relationship with those H2H candidates and we talked about a lot of hot button issues. The main question surrounding these discussions was: How do you approach a homeless person? The most basic answer but, also the most correct one is to start out by saying “Hi, how are you? My name is Ariel. What’s your name?” A homeless person is a person first and homeless second. We should learn to treat everyone with equal respect no matter what there living conditions are like.
When a homeless person refuses help, there is a lot of factors that play into their response. It’s not necessarily that they don’t like you or that they don’t want to talk to you although often times that is the case. But more often than not it’s a homeless person’s sense of what is safe and what makes them comfortable that often limits their interest in receiving help. When you have known one style of life, one church stoop, one park bench and you’ve been able to survive on it, you become comfortable with it and often times you don’t want to leave. It’s like being a young kid and told it’s time to pick up and move to a new neighborhood. You’ve known the house you’ve lived in, the kids next door and even with the promise of new friends and a bigger room, you can’t necessary trust or believe the outcomes of the move will be what people say they are because you are comfortable with what you have and what you know.
Potentially, the candidates for H2H’s services will be homeless. Knowing and understanding where their emotions and attitudes come from will be very important in order to successfully supply these candidates with the quality of care and social services they deserve. We worked on these interactions with role-playing scenes between a H2H employee and a candidate living on the streets.
Just a few days later I attended another presentation on psychiatric outreach to the homeless. There was a lot of interesting information and statistics presented by Dr. Van Yu who with the Center for Urban Community Service that works with Common Ground as well. Some of statistics were very surprising. On a given day in the United States, 750,000 people are homeless. In a 12 month period, 3 million people will experience some form of homelessness. In New York alone 2,382 people are street homeless. But in comparison Los Angeles has an alarming 40,144 people living on the street.
In addition, we learned a large number of psychiatric problems and mental illnesses exist among homeless individuals. Younger individuals tend to have more psychiatric illnesses as well. Suicide is also high among homeless individuals. We also learned how to approach someone with a psychiatric illness and added that to the tool bag to take into the field.
Unfortunately, I won’t get the opportunity to watch the H2H team members hone these skills in the field. But, I found the sessions to be incredibly informational and eye-opening. I learned a lot about outreach to the homeless and really enjoyed learning about the services of Common Ground and CUCS.