Outreach is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you don’t have an air conditioned car (or any car at all): my heart breaks for all the homeless people who spend most of their time outdoors. Marc McCue and I start our outreach days by creating a map of the organizations we planned to visit, and then we headed out into the heat (which was in the upper 90s) and followed our map all day. I cannot imagine doing this without a phone with a GPS or money to stop and get a cold drink.
Our goal for doing outreach is to spread the word about the new Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant that Friendship Place has received. We travel to DC organizations that provide shelter, job training, food, or any other place that a homeless or at-risk veteran might go for help. Sometimes the organizations are closed when we get there, and sometimes they are not interested or already know everything we have to say. But most of the time, organizations are extremely receptive to us.
One organization in particular stands out in my mind. I walked into the office of Thrive DC, and at first they looked confused to see me there. After I explained myself and my organization they offered me a seat (I had just walked a half a mile in 95 degrees, so I probably looked like I needed to sit down). They were excited to hear about the SSVF grant, and they were also excited to see young people showing an interest in the issue of homelessness. We exchanged information, and they invited us to a staff meeting so we could talk more about Friendship Place and SSVF.
It feels good to know that we are getting the word out, and that is hopefully helping veterans. We try to be as thorough as possible; if we walk by a place that looks like it might offer homeless services we always check it out. We always say “if you come across a homeless veteran, please let us know”. Hopefully our outreach efforts are a big enough step towards getting veterans out of this heat and into a new home.