Understanding Outreach

A conversation with Kris Younggren

The Downtown Outreach Worker is a position funded by the city of Santa Cruz and the County Mental Health department.

Downtown Outreach Worker, Kris Younggren sat down with the Downtown Association’s Social and Legislative Committee to talk about her work in Downtown Santa Cruz.

Kris works five days a week including regular hours at the Library on Thursday from 9:00am-11:00 am and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Aside from her regular library hours, Kris is available on-call and she patrols the downtown, making herself available to support those in need with the goal of getting people off of the street and into services as appropriate.

She spoke about prioritizing and focusing on people who are the most vulnerable, as indicated by age, assistive devices, and active mental health issues, as well as those who are causing disruptions or other challenges. Upon meeting someone in need, a standard first step is to find out where they came from and if they are new to the area, as many of those that she interacts with are, attempt to connect them with services and/or family members in the community from where they came.

The essential goal of the Downtown Outreach Worker is to reduce the need for criminal justice involvement and psychiatric hospitalization and assist individuals in making a transition out of homelessness.

Most clients have complex and high needs and require a range of care and support. Kris works closely with the Downtown Enforcement team and with numerous service providers in the area.

In talking with Kris it was impressive to understand the numerous programs and agencies throughout the county that are available for those in need. However, it is also apparent that access to many of the service can be a daunting task, especially for a someone contending with mobility issues, and the many other challenges and stresses of being homeless.

A Case for Casework

For every man or woman who finds themselves experiencing homelessness, there is probably a complex set of unfortunate circumstances, and perhaps decisions, that led them to the situation they are in. It would follow that moving them out of homelessness and into a more independent lifestyle would also require a specific path depending on the individual case.

The Downtown Association continues to advocate for additional effective casework in the Downtown. There is some encouraging news on that front with additional support in the Downtown Coming from the Homeless Persons Health Project and other County resources. Additionally, we are excited about the launch of Downtown Streets Team here in Santa Cruz this summer, a program that the Downtown Association has been leading the charge to bring to Santa Cruz.

Kris can be reached at 831-818-0166

The Social and Legislative Committee meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 8:30 am at Nextspace, 101 Cooper Street.

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