Homeless Outreach: Meeting People Where They Are

July 18, 2022

“We just start with small talk. I try not to dive into the big questions right away.”

That’s the approach Delesia Hill uses when she interacts with individuals who are homeless. Hill is a case manager on the Homeless Outreach Team at Kim Wilson Housing. The team works alongside Cross-Lines Community Outreach and the Kansas City Kansas Police Department to help individuals experiencing homelessness.

The outreach process is just the first step in moving someone from homeless to housed, but Hill says building that relationship and gaining trust can be the most challenging part of the process. In some cases, Hill says it can take months to build rapport. And sometimes the team encounters people who don’t want to engage and are resistant to the idea of being housed.

“I know you don’t want housing right now, but I’m here when ­­you do.”

Delesia Hill, Homeless Outreach Case Manager

“For most of us, we can’t imagine not wanting housing. But that’s reality for some people,” says Tracy Lockett, Homeless Outreach Manager. “In some cases, they’ve been out there for so long, they don’t want the rules of a landlord. They don’t want the rent and utilities.”

“And some people have become accustomed to living in the elements so long that this is foreign to them. Having a door with a key that you can unlock – that's foreign to them,” adds Hill.

But even for those who might be resistant to housing, Hill wants them to know one thing.

“I know you don’t want housing right now, but I’m here when ­­you do.”

According to preliminary results from the Point-in-Time Count conducted March 2-3, 2022, the Wyandotte County area saw a 63% increase in the number of individuals who were either unsheltered or who stayed at the KCK Cold Weather Shelter on the night of the Point-in-Time Count. 

Over the past year, Hill and the rest of the Homeless Outreach Team were able to help 69 people find permanent housing, a 60 percent increase over the prior fiscal year. And while Hill says it is difficult to pinpoint one story that stands out above the rest, she was moved by a recent interaction.

“I recently housed a father of three who is a very hard working person. I went over there after he had gotten housed. And to see him have his children over there, to see them playing, to see that he had a place where they could go and they could call ‘dad’s home’… that was just really heartwarming to me to know that this process is effective and it’s working.”