Maricopa County has partnered with Community Bridges Inc. to launch the Hand in Hand Street Outreach program, which aims to provide essential outreach services to people experiencing homelessness in select unincorporated and targeted communities of Maricopa County. The program operates up to seven days a week depending on the region.
The program's primary objective is to identify locations where unsheltered people are camping. A trained outreach team goes to these areas to build rapport with people experiencing homelessness and offer a connection to housing and other wraparound services. In addition to immediate shelter, providing essential relief from Arizona’s weather, Hand in Hand participants are offered access to housing services, food and benefit programs, mental and physical health services, substance use treatment, case management, transportation, employment, and long-term care. The program's comprehensive approach helps address the root causes of homelessness, including mental health and substance use issues.
Need Addressed by the Program
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program was developed in response to the growing problem of homelessness in Maricopa County. According to the available data, the number of people experiencing homelessness has dramatically increased from 1646 people in 2016 to 5029 people in 2022.
To address this complex issue, Maricopa County has taken action by collaborating with Community Bridges Inc. to develop the Hand in Hand Street Outreach program. The program provides an essential connection to outreach services for people experiencing homelessness in unincorporated and targeted communities in Maricopa County.
Since the root causes of homelessness are multifaceted, a wide variety of services are offered through the Hand in Hand program including housing services, connection to food and benefit programs, financial stability resources, mental and physical health services, addressing substance use, case management, transportation employment, and long-term care.
Although the county has no statutory legal obligation to address the issue of homelessness, the county recognizes that it has a shared social responsibility with other community and other government organizations to provide support and assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness. The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program is one such initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life for people experiencing homelessness in the county.
Street homelessness has dramatically increased in Maricopa County year over year. In 2016 there were 1646 people counted on the street and in 2022 there were 5029.
Street outreach services exist but many smaller cities and unincorporated areas in the county do not have dedicated outreach teams.
The issue of homelessness has become a significant concern in Maricopa County, with street homelessness dramatically increasing from 1646 people in 2016 to 5029 in 2022. To address this issue, Maricopa County has developed the Hand in Hand Street Outreach program. The objective of this program is to increase service connection and resolve the underlying issues contributing to homelessness for people in select cities and unincorporated areas of the county.
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program involves developing relationships with stakeholders in select communities, establishing referral structures, providing regular services, and providing quality care. The program offers a comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of homelessness, including access to housing, mental and physical health issues, substance use, and financial stability. The program's primary focus is on providing immediate assistance to people experiencing homelessness, with the ultimate goal of helping them achieve stable housing and a better quality of life.
The outreach program includes a range of services, including housing services, connection to food and benefit programs, mental and physical health services, addressing substance use, case management, transportation, employment, and long-term care. These services are critical in helping people experiencing homelessness to address the complex issues they face, including mental and physical health issues, addiction, and financial instability. By providing these essential services, the program aims to improve the quality of life for people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.
Maricopa County is partnering with Community Bridges, Inc. to administer the street outreach and case management coordination services that are the signature aspects of the Hand in Hand Street Outreach program.
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program seeks to achieve key outcomes including:
- Engagement: Many of the clients in these areas may be difficult to find and reluctant to engage, so a consistent effort to communicate, and build rapport and trust is especially important to this program. Often, it takes multiple contacts and engagements to begin a productive dialogue.
- Housing: Positive housing outcomes are the primary goal for the health and safety of these Maricopa County residents.
- Service Connection: In coordination with the establishment of basic needs services, including food and shelter, the Hand in Hand program facilitates the connection to case management services to address the underlying contributing factors that have led a person to experience homelessness. The case manager works with the individual to develop a customized plan to re-establish connections to employment, benefits, transportation, healthcare, and other services.
Responding to Economic Downturn
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program aims to improve housing outcomes for those experiencing homelessness by providing a comprehensive range of services that are essential to achieving stable housing. This program is particularly important as it operates in areas where other outreach services are not available, which ensures that many people who would not otherwise have access to these services are reached.
Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Homelessness disparately impacts people of color and those with little or no income. With these and other barriers, including distance to established services in downtown Phoenix, this program seeks to improve outcomes for those experiencing homelessness bringing outreach efforts to areas where homelessness services do not currently exist. Hand in Hand provides an essential connection for people to pathways to housing and case management services so these vulnerable people have safe and stable housing and opportunities to achieve equitable outcomes.
Hand in Hand breaks down some of the barriers faced by marginalized communities to offer access to the resources people need to achieve their fullest potential.
In this way, the program is a vital part of the county's efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and create a more equitable future for all residents.
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program has an annual budget of $424,854, which is funded through general funds. This budget covers the entire cost of the program operated through an agreement with Community Bridges, Inc. – the service provider. The budget is all-inclusive of the cost for outreach workers, case management services, and transportation for outreach workers and clients.
For a county attempting to replicate the program, there would be a range of operating and capital costs to consider. The county should consider whether to outsource the operations as is the case in Maricopa County, or to fully operate the program with county staff and resources, or some combination of the two. Operating costs would include the salaries of outreach workers and support staff, as well as the cost of supplies and transportation. In addition, counties would need to consider the cost of developing and implementing referral structures, establishing relationships with community stakeholders, and ensuring that services are delivered in a culturally competent and sensitive manner.
Counties would also need to consider the cost of implementing case management systems and ensuring that clients have access to a range of health and social services. Finally, counties would need to consider the cost of ongoing evaluation and monitoring to ensure that the program is achieving its intended outcomes and meeting the needs of program participants.
Results/Success of the Program
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program has shown success in meeting its objectives.
- Maricopa County’s Hand in Hand program has connected 336 individuals to services and 63 clients to positive housing destinations.
- The program has also had a diverse spread of connections in both the east and west valley areas. These areas include Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Gilbert, Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Surprise, Tolleson, Youngtown, Sun City, and flood control areas.
While the program's success can be measured quantitatively by the number of individuals it has connected to services and positive housing outcomes, there is also the qualitative measure – the quality of life. The Maricopa County Hand in Hand program has provided individuals with access to essential services like housing, food and benefit programs, mental and physical health services, substance use treatment, case management, transportation, employment, and long-term care. Additionally, the program's outreach efforts have reached communities that may not have had access to these services otherwise.
The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program is an innovative and targeted approach to addressing the growing demands of the homeless population in Maricopa County, the fastest-growing country in the United States. The program is unique in that it is adaptable to fill gaps in the system and operates in areas where other outreach programs do not exist.
This outreach model has been successful in connecting individuals to essential services, including housing, food and benefit programs, mental and physical health services, substance use treatment, transportation, employment, and long-term care. The program's success is evident in the number of individuals it has connected to services and positive housing outcomes. The diverse spread of connections in both east and west valley areas demonstrates the program's effectiveness in reaching those who need assistance the most. The Hand in Hand Street Outreach program is a model program that addresses a critical issue in Maricopa County and deserves recognition for its innovative and impactful approach to making a measurable impact in the lives of people in a place with a drastically growing street homeless population.