Outreach and Assessment

This is a great short article for anyone who is interested in thinking about deeper issues to "Why are people Homeless?" and, "What can I do?"
Our Theory of Change believes that Homelessness will end once individuals take the time to know someone "through and through". This takes a lot of patience and time.
We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us the insight and compassion to listen and look inside of people.


I have extracted pieces of the original article for our use. Assessment is the process of gathering information from an indiviudal in a professional setting. I insist that these grand skills not be used just for professionals, but rather for all individuals who desire to be part of the solution of Homelessness. I have highlited key phrases.

Outreach and Assessment by Ken Kraybill

"Assessment is not unlike putting together a puzzle. It requires laying out the pieces, sorting and organizing them in general categories, and then forming a piece by piece. It takes time and concentrated effort. The assessment process is not to be confused with diagnosis in the narrow way the term is commonly used – as a shorthand description or label. The literal
meaning of diagnosis is “to know through and through.” Defined in this way, diagnosis and assessment do in fact become one and the same. To know someone “through and through” suggests taking the time to listen very carefully to that person’s story. Otherwise, assessment will be limited in its accuracy and usefulness. While it is relatively easy to assess the obvious – that someone is wearing inadequate clothing for the weather, or has skin wounds that need attention, or is intoxicated – it is more difficult to come to an understanding of what has brought them to this point in their lives or what hinders them from moving ahead. Is the individual unaware of help available? Has he or she given up on ever having a better life? Harboring guilt that is too great to even express? Been hurt emotionally once too many times to care anymore? Struggling with inner voices, real or imagined, which denigrate the individual over and over? Too angry to want anybody’s caring or help? These are the questions to which workers must seek answers. Such answers can be learned only through a relational approach
to assessment. Thorough assessment requires that we observe not only what is readily apparent, but also what is “hidden.” This means seeing with a “third eye” perspective. That is, listening for nuance, noting ambivalence, observing what’s missing, paying attention to your own reactions and intuition, and testing out ideas. The “hidden” is the part of the person’s story that is revealed as the bond of trust between worker and client grows stronger and stronger.
As outreach workers, we can miss a lot of critical knowledge if we avoid the “hidden” and jump to conclusions in assessment and offer help prematurely. For example, experienced outreach workers know that it can not be assumed that someone living on a river bank in a makeshift tent would rather stay in a mission or public shelter or want permanent housing for that matter. Or, that someone who is feeling ill wants to see a medical provider. Or, that a person who is
experiencing depression will be eager to be treated with medications. Frequently, the deeper psychological and emotional problems that individuals face keep them from resolving their homelessness-related problems of housing, income, and seeking health care and social service assistance. Acknowledging and attempting to address these deep-down issues cannot be ignored if we are to be successful in helping people move from the streets toward greater stability.
In Health Care for the Homeless programs some outreach workers are generalists while others have specialized training in medicine, mental health, addictions or in working with specific populations of homeless people. Therefore, the emphasis or targeting of assessment activities will vary from provider to provider. However, it remains the responsibility of all providers involved in outreach to strive to know individuals “through and through” so as to be accurate
in assessment and effective with our interventions."
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