Announcing our new Street-Based One-to-One Counseling Program!

The name is decidedly unwieldy, but we think the program itself is very cool! It will enable ATC to make a much bigger impact on the lives of our most disconnected clients.  Here’s the who, what, when, where and why of this program:

Who it will help: youth with whom we have not succeeded in building consistent, in-depth counseling relationships. There are many reasons why this happens:

  • They have such severe mental health or substance use issues that making it to appointments at a specific time is very hard.
  • They are fearful of, or uncomfortable with, asking for help, and are slow to trust. They’ll talk with us on outreach, but aren’t motivated to meet individually with us.
  • Their lives are so chaotic that between the time they set up an appointment and the time it rolls around, something comes up that interferes, even if it is only 24 hours away; often it is longer than that, when ATC is very busy.
  • They are prioritizing survival above everything else, so meeting with us is not a priority.

What we will do:

  • Every month, ATC will draw up a list of 30-60 clients whom we have seen many times during nighttime street outreach, but with whom we have not been able to build deeper relationships. These are youth who have never met with us one-to-one, or have only done so on rare occasion.
  • During the day, our most experienced counselors, the ones who have the best relationships with our clients, will walk the streets of the Downtown/Tenderloin & Mission neighborhoods, looking for these youth.
  • When the counselor sees one of these clients, she will invite him to grab a bite.
  • She’ll take him out to lunch, and have an on-the-spot counseling meeting – no wait, no barriers, and no hoops to jump through.
  • We’ll be out there multiple times a week, trying to reach as many of these targeted youth as possible.

When we will launch it: We will be adding two new counselors to our staff in early 2013. Once they are fully trained, which should be around May, we will start up the new program.

Where we will carry it out: The same neighborhoods where we do our nighttime street outreach: the Downtown/Tenderloin area and Mission district. We may also go to other areas of the city, if it is more likely that we will find our clients there. We’re still figuring that out.

Why we are launching this program:

  • We have learned over the years that when we are able to forge in-depth, long-term, unconditional counseling relationships with our clients, amazing things happen. This new program will enable us to build these relationships with the youth with whom we have the hardest time connecting.
  • Our goal, from day one, has been to reach the hardest-to-reach homeless youth, and provide them with the support they need to build outstanding lives. We have not been succeeding with some of our clients. While we have been reaching them on outreach, we have not been able to build the deeper relationships that can have transformative effects on their lives. We have not been offering them the right kind of help. We think that this will be a better model for the kids that have the hardest time connecting with us.
  • Because every young person we see on the streets has the potential to build safe, healthy, fulfilling lives. Our job is to do everything we can to help make this happen for each and every person we meet, no matter what the challenges in forging the connection. While there is so much more we can do, this feels like an important step forward.
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