Outreach workers who provide social and medical services are key to Mayor Bass' homeless initiative

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Friday, March 24, 2023
Outreach workers are key to Mayor Bass' homeless initiative
Outreach workers who provide social and medical services to homeless people in Los Angeles are key to the Inside Safe program.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Five weeks ago, Pete Wales was living at a homeless encampment near the intersection of Sixth Street and Fairfax Avenue in Beverly Grove, behind the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"It's is a madhouse, is the best way I can explain it," said Wales. "You have any and everything coming at you at all times from good people and bad people. It's not something I would recommend for anybody. You gotta be tough."

Wales, who has a job in construction, now calls the Silver Lake Hotel home and is scheduled to move into permanent housing next month. Wales is part of Los Angles Mayor Karen Bass' Inside Safe program, and his former encampment no longer exists.

So, how did Wales get back on his feet? Meet Kiana Matthews with The People Concern, a homeless service provider who has been working with Wales for years.

"Know how to speak to our clients," said Matthews. "If you don't know how to speak with the clients. 'Hey, this is what's going to happen.' Then, they're not going to go in. Treat them as humans. Don't treat them any different. Treat them how you would talk to a friend if you were going out for lunch."

"I've always been straight and honest with her," said Wales. "She's a very good person. She cares about somebody when she helps. It beats living on the street and having to go to the job. I can take a shower and stay clean, something to eat."

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved two separate but complementary motions aimed to reduce recreational vehicle homelessness throughout the city.

The People Concern has 38 of their clients living at the Silver Lake Hotel until permanent housing becomes available. Their goal: to get their clients healthy, find them jobs if they're able to work, and keep them safe.

Matthews is 26 years old and has her master's degree in social work with training in mental health. She says those who resist housing eventually come around because everyone at the encampment wants to stick together.

"There in the same area for who knows how long. They've known each other for years. Once a client is indoors, we're still going to provide the same services as we would on the street.

"I think we're more successful because we're able to know where the client is every day," said Matthews. "On the street, if we go to an encampment, then they're not there. OK, where do we go find them?"

For Wales, another important part of getting off the street is addressing his health issues, which is where Negeen Farmand comes in.

"I do anything from primary care, street psychology, wound care and a little bit of infectious disease. We've been working with Pete for a years and we've been making good progress. The fact that he's here, alive, happy and well, is a big relief for us," said Nageen Farmand, a physician's assistant with the Saban Community Clinic.

Being a homeless services and medical provider is not an easy job. But both Farmand and Matthews say it's extremely rewarding.

"This is his first time being indoors, so seeing that happen was incredible because he's always been hesitant about it," said Matthews. "In his words, be 'locked in a room.' He didn't want to feel trapped."