Health professionals identify and serve most vulnerable
The HOP teams consist of a mental health worker and CSFD paramedic. Team members are trained behavioral health providers with combined experience in mental and medical health assessment, treatment, education and care, and they focus exclusively on Downtown. Easily identified by their bright red shirts, the HOP team walks between the City’s main human service providers, the Marion House on the north side and Springs Rescue Mission on the south end of Downtown Colorado Springs. They work to identify and engage with individuals that frequently utilize services, establish a relationship with them, build trust and offer assistance and opportunities to connect to community agencies.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of life for those individuals experiencing homelessness and struggling with social detriments or mental and/or physical health. In doing so, we believe the effect will be a Downtown area that continues to be viewed as a safe gathering place for community events, a thriving environment for businesses of all types, and a symbol of vitality for our city as a whole,” said Aja King, Licensed Professional Counselor, Director of Homeless Outreach Program.
Relationship to resiliency
With the understanding that the process will be a marathon, not a sprint, HOP staff take time to build trust and foster cooperation. The team members have worked in career counseling and employment assistance, providing a different approach that has already led to positive outcomes. Tom (not his real name), a homeless veteran, met with the HOP team members in January 2020. They encouraged Tom to connect with VA programs and local service agencies but at the time, Tom was unwilling. With the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent Stay At Home order, HOP staff lost track of Tom; he could no longer be found in his regular spots. A few weeks ago, Tom recognized the bright red shirts, approached the team and asked for help. He was ready. HOP staff connected him with Rocky Mountain Human Services to reopen Tom’s case and this veteran is currently in the process of obtaining secure housing. Another client was connected to resources and provided transportation to another city, where he could work on his sobriety away from family and friends who had only enabled his addiction.