With weather amnesty programs ending in late March, the efforts of Downtown South Bend, Inc. over the winter will mean seven less former homeless citizens will not be on the streets, but in their new homes.
“It’s a small start, but a major step,” said DTSB Outreach Specialist Chris Anderson. “Building relationships and trust is not a quick, easy task with people living on our streets.
Since the launch of DTSB’s social outreach specialist position in July of 2017, Anderson has been spending his time connecting with the homeless and panhandling population in downtown and getting to know more about the social service agencies available to them in our community. Over the past eight months Anderson has established a database of homeless individuals and has connected with regular downtown panhandlers. He’s worked with businesses on an ongoing basis who reach out to him with various quality of life issues, and regularly visits the places that offer shelter, food, clothing and other resources. In addition, Anderson assists individuals with finding employment, provides transportation opportunities to appointments and continues to encourage and educate individuals about all the resources available in our community.
DTSB and the City of South Bend established the Social Outreach position through a partnership that includes a commitment to the downtown business community, residents, and visitors in providing a safe, hospitable, and vibrant community. In response to stakeholder feedback and as part of the city’s commitment to serving all residents, this position helps connect panhandlers and homeless individuals to available resources.
Anderson notes that the most effective way to curb panhandling and help those in need is not to give money to panhandlers, but to officially recognized organizations instead.
“We’d also like to remind the public that DTSB Ambassador Assistance is available 24/7 in downtown South Bend by calling (574) 400-3949 and in case of an emergency dial 911,” said Anderson.
The position is a collaboration between Downtown South Bend, Inc. and the City of South Bend and is funded through DTSB by a contribution from the Duke & Katy Downey Charitable Trust and the City of South Bend’s Department of Venues Parks & Arts.