Forum Promotes Team Approach to Help Springfield Homeless
A new program that encourages collaborations among police officers, community social workers and local officials is showing promise at addressing problems within Springfield’s homeless population.
Area officials hope to expand upon this success by broadening the circle of local participants. A free forum will be held 1 - 4 pm on Thursday, May 3, at the Dove Center, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, 800 East Carpenter in Springfield. It is open to health care professionals, government officials and social service providers and will be hosted jointly by SIU School of Medicine, the Springfield Police Department, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Memorial Medical Center and the Enos Park Neighborhood Association.
Police officer Nathan Schwiethale, who leads the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) effort in Wichita, Kansas, will be a keynote speaker. Wichita team members have taken more than 800 homeless off the streets and into permanent or transitional housing since initiating the program.
Wichita’s multi-faceted approach uses evidence-based practices that have proven effective in other cities. Four Springfield police officers and SIU Assistant Professor Tracey Smith, DNP, visited Wichita in January 2017 to learn how its groups have combined resources to combat the problems of homelessness. In Springfield, a similar collaboration had made strides improving access to health care and housing opportunities in the Enos Park Neighborhood.
Springfield Police Department Sgt. Gerry Castles believes both the officers on patrol and the person in need will benefit from the new approach. “Cops don’t have all the answers, but we need to be more than revolving doors for these people. If the underlying issues that brought them in contact with us aren’t addressed, we aren’t resolving anything,” he said. “This forum can become an entrance to a solution: a team that works together and builds on collaboration.”
In addition to learning about Wichita’s HOT program, forum participants will discuss barriers and problem solving, and hear from panelists familiar with Springfield’s homeless outreach options. Continuing education credits will be available for physicians, nurses, social workers, clinical psychologists and professional counselors/clinical counselors who attend the forum. To register, email Hope Cherry at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Homeless Outreach Team Forum’ in the subject line. Provide your name, email, credentials and institution if you are seeking continuing education credits.