On Homelessness: New Training Helps You Help Others

2020 Editions January More News Updates

By Jane Demian

SELAH, a grassroots organization to help people experiencing homelessness, recently held a training session in Eagle Rock where volunteers learned how to reach out to local unhoused individuals and engage them in supportive interactions and programs.

The training session was the latest expansion of SELAH, which formed in 2017 to focus on Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater Village and Hollywood and has since expanded to Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Koreatown and now, Eagle Rock.

The SELAH approach is spreading because it is effective: Where many homeless organizations work on the big-picture goal of reducing homelessness on the city, county and state level, SELAH volunteers work on the neighborhood, encampment and individual level.

At the training session, volunteers learned how to use a team approach to safely conduct outreach and engagement at encampments, with the aim of providing detailed, sustained and relationship-driven assistance to unhoused neighbors.

Consistency is key. SELAH volunteers visit the same people and places twice a month and, in some areas, provide weekly suppers, mobile showers, donated clothing, a movie and a transportation van. SELAH volunteers also work with case management partners who can connect unhoused individuals to service providers.

Good communication is also key, such as posing open ended questions to engender trust. Good communication with individuals experiencing homelessness also requires being sensitive to the effects of trauma.

Trainee volunteers were also taught how to make online requests for help on behalf of unhoused individuals at www.LA-HOP.org, the site of the L.A. Homeless Outreach Program of the L.A. Homeless Services Agency (LAHSA). When an LA-HOP request for help is received, LAHSA uses the information to dispatch city outreach teams that can begin the process of accessing services and housing.

In addition to LAHSA, other city and county agencies and larger nonprofits have benefited from the vital, firsthand information SELAH is able to compile on the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Outreach teams from People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) and Homeless Healthcare L.A. have used notes from SELAH volunteers to tailor help to specific individuals.

Kaiser Permanente and Wesley Health Centers have recently expressed interest in having patient navigators accompany SELAH’s case management partners to help unhoused individuals who are dealing with chronic illnesses.

To learn more about SELAH, visit: selahnhc.org.

Information about volunteer opportunities with SELAH can be found at selahnhc.org/volunteer: Eagle Rock volunteers are especially needed to ensure that a consistent, robust SELAH response is established locally. To ask questions, email:
selahnhc@gmail.com or call 323-539-7570.


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