Our Peer Outreach Workers (POWs) meet at-risk and homeless youth where they are at, on the streets.
POWs approach youth at various locations around the community where teens tend to gather. Outreach can occur at malls, the transit center, recreation centers, schools, in-patient treatment facilities and various community events. POWs act as a walking referrals, informing their peers about the applicable agencies and resources available to them.
POWs meet youth like 17 year old Liz, an unaccompanied homeless youth, eager to access snacks, hygiene items, and socks on the street. After meeting with POWs several times during outreach, she finally stepped foot into our POWER Drop-in Center. It took Liz 6 months of visiting our center before she shared her story and housing needs with staff. Through relationship building, Liz worked with our case manager to gain employment and move into permanent housing.
Why Street Outreach is Needed? Building relationships on the street is a primary defense to exploitation of our community’s youth.
Youth reached on the street are not going to walk into social service agencies and ask for help. Youth reached on the street are often untrusting of social services agencies and need the consistency and support of street outreach to build relationship and meet emergency needs.
Street outreach is a primary defense against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Peer outreach workers are trained on red flags and are familiar with focus points for recruitment. By meeting immediate needs such as food and hygiene items, relationships are built to provide a bridge to help.
History and Philosophy of Street Outreach – Street outreach has been providing health and hygiene items, food, education and referrals for decades.
In 1992, the street outreach program started with a peer outreach approach utilizing the experience of at risk and homeless youth 13-19 years old. Youth were hired and proved to be the most effective in reaching out to youth. POWs are able to provide a connection and support in a unique way that feels more authentic and real to youth on the street.
All main components of AYA’s programs are focused on meeting a youth where they are. That could be on the street, in a residential treatment/rehabilitation facility, or within our drop-in center. Youth are empowered to take control of their lives and circumstances to define their own success and reach their goals. Each year AYA helps youth who have suffered from abuse and neglect, who are not otherwise engaged enter into education, employment and stable housing.