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PHC- Volunteer Training Info

The Aim of PHC

Homelessness is a “wicked problem” and has been adopted as a “grand challenge” by the social work profession nationally. The Project Homeless Connect model was developed in San Francisco. The direct aim of PHC is connect people to the services they need in a one day event. So instead of a person running all over town trying to get services, all the service providers come to one central location and set up shop. PHC 2017 will be the 8th time it has been run here in Rochester and the feedback from the past guests as well as the providers has been overwhelmingly positive. We collect data, and the data shows that this approach works.

How it works

The event is run as a collaborative effort with Pathstone Corporation as the lead agency. The BlueCross Arena is obtained through Monroe County for the day- Thursday September 14th, 8:30am-3pm. Providers who service the homeless in any capacity are invited to come and set up a booth on the main floor of the arena. A short list: DSS, Housing, Legal, Substance, Veteran, Health, Mental Health, Youth, Homeless Services, Bike, Haircuts, Pedicure, and food. The event is free and open to anyone who wants to come. Each person is considered to be a guest. They are asked to complete a short survey coming into the building and then are individually matched with a host whose job is to get them started, to help the guest feel comfortable and make sure they can get some of their needs addressed. We do coat drives so that each guest can get a free winter coat. We fund raise so that there is a free lunch for everyone. Guests can stay as long as they please, and can come back if they leave. There is a voluntary exit survey as well.

a line at one booth at the 2015 eventYour Role

PHC is very much a grassroots approach to addressing homelessness. Success comes from a collective effort of many people volunteering. As a volunteer it is best to approach your service as if you are a host. The guests who have been invited may be unsure if it a good idea to come. They may have had mixed experience with providers and have learned to be cautious, or have learned that they needed to be forthright in their assertiveness to ensure that they get what they need. Your job is to meet people where they are at. To engage them. To help guide them to what they need and briefly broker that guest to a provider. Try to stay with a person only as long as they need and then come back and do it again. We will have many more guests than volunteers so we need you to work productively and quickly and then do it again. The event has been safe, but there are people to help if you need. You will be on your feet, wear comfortable shoes and bring your best attitude. If 2016 is anything like the past four PHCs you will leave with a real sense of pride and accomplishment.

General advice:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, you will be on your feet most of the day
  • You will not have a secure place to store anything. Bring only what you can carry in your pockets or a bag that is on your person at all times
  • It may be pretty cold in the arena, since the ice will be down (covered by plywood) for the hocky season

Thank you for volunteering to put on Project Homeless Connect. We depend on a small army of volunteers who believe that the homeless and near-homeless in our community can be better served if they are connected to services. That is the mission of this day: To make connections between services and people who seek services.

Your Goal:  Think of yourself as hosting an event where people will be coming who you do not know but want to get to know. Imagine that they may be somewhat unsure if this event will be worth their time. So your goal then is to make them feel comfortable, to gently get to know them (not too much too fast) and then use the information you learn about them to lead to them to a service that will show them that this day was worth their time.  Think of it as folks coming to a restaurant and you are their server. They are hungry but have never been to your restaurant before and want to know if the food is good. It is your humble task to serve them and make them feel welcome.

Some Assumptions: In general, assumptions about other people do not help us because they block us from connecting as they pre-set our vision. One way around this is to approach each guest with a deep curiosity about them, starting very general and moving to more specific as they seem comfortable.

Our experience with the past three PHC has shown us that the guests we largely get are people on the margins of our society who are having to work real hard to stay afloat and many of whom have survived numerous traumas. Many of our guests have not always had the best interactions with service providers, often feeling judged by service providers; we want them to have a different experience today, a respectful experience with us. There is a quote by helper/theologian/guru Baba Ram Das “let us not judge but appreciate”. Find things to appreciate about the persons that you host/interact with.

Basic Advice: Be open, honest, respectful, genuine and accepting. Actively work to see their strengths, including their surviving and coping abilities.

For Data Collectors (Largely this is Professor Leanne Charlesworth’s research students):

You will be the first people our guests meet and you have a hard job of quickly engaging them so that they will complete the brief survey. Do this by:

  • Saying hello, telling them your name, telling them that you are a student who is volunteering to get them registered.
  • Tell them they will not be asked any questions that could identify them.
  • Tell them that their name is not being recorded, nor their birthday.
  • At the same time tell them that we need some basic information because the only way we can pay for this day is to show the powers that be that people in Rochester need services and spending days running all over town is way too hard.
  • Tell them that we have tons of services here today and that they will get a personal guide.
  • Tell them that we have a free coat give away to all guests who stop at four services and completing this two minute survey counts as one of the four. 

When they are done thank them and give them their “passport” which will have their identification number on it and the space for the four service providers to key punch. Punch one service for their time with you.

For Host Volunteers (this is the majority of volunteers):

In many ways you make or break the day for our guests. Your job is to connect and engage them so that they trust you enough to direct them to the services that are most important to them. When they come through the data collection line, Jed Metzger will greet them and introduce them to you.

  • Please tell them your name. Please tell them that you are a student volunteer and that your job is to make sure they get the most out of this day.
  • Tell them that PHC is designed so that people who need things can get them all in one place in one day.
  • You can give them our “goodie” bag. You will have a map with a list of services.
  • Ask them is they would like some coffee/juice/bagel.
  • Engage with most general- ask how they heard about PHC, ask if they were at the last one, ask how they got here today, talk about the weather.
  • Share some excitement about PHC- that this works.
  • Show them the list and ask them what will be the most important places to see (if they bring up the coat giveaway, reinforce that they need to visit at least three more services. If they ask about lunch tell them it is free).
  • They will have a “passport” that is used as both an identifier as it has a tracking ID number on it, and a way to make sure they stop at least three services to be able to go to the coat room. At each service table they should present their passport so the service provider can record their number and punch their passport. 
  • Tell them that your job is to guide them as long as is useful to them but at least through the first service provider. Our overall goal is to link people to health services. The belief system behind PHC is that the population who walks in the door could have improved health care and that a major obstacle to better health care is access to that care.  So as much as the coats, lunch and ID services are important to our guests, we really hope to help them link to the health providers in attendance.
  • Please feel free to ask them how much of their time is spent chasing down appointments and going all over town to get one thing done, tell them that this day is designed to get a month of running around done in a couple hours, so we hope that they will take advantage, but ultimately tell them that they are the expert on their lives and that we believe that they know best what they need. We really want to take a service model and see service as a humble honor.

This day is 100% volunteer run, we need you to be as committed as you can be, and volunteer as long as you can. It is our firm belief that you will walk away tired and yet energized that you really did something today, something absolutely useful.