Projects >> OWLSHelp Consulting

“The opportunity for brotherhood exists every time you meet a human being” – Jane Wyman

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Overview | Rationale | Logistics | Vision | Current Status | Apply TodayGalleryGet Involved 

Overview:

While preparing sack lunches and offering them to those in need is an endeavor clearly appreciated by those receiving them, the ultimate impact of such work is often limited to short-term, immediate relief. In the absence of long-term strategies for self-support, simple charity alone can serve as an insufficient band-aid to a much deeper and pervasive problem. The OWLSHelp Consulting program was created as a way to connect the homeless community to trained student volunteers willing to help struggling individuals get back on their feet. Volunteers interface directly with “clients” facing housing insecurity and offer help with a variety of tasks that includes: obtaining necessary identification, researching job opportunities, assisting with housing applications, and much more.

The goal of the program is two fold: 1) To create a  deeper and more lasting impact on the lives of homeless individuals — “one individual at a time,” and 2) to offer student volunteers a window into the world of those facing poverty in America.

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Rationale:

You might be thinking: “What could student volunteers possibly do to help homeless individuals get back on their feet?”

Quite a bit, actually. Often times the barriers to finding employment, landing public housing, or being reincorporated into society are ones formed not because of lack of will, but rather because of factors arising from “lack of access”. Seemingly, simple issues like the inability to acquire documentation, lack of computer access, and ignorance of available public resources can leave otherwise willing individuals unable to progress to the next and better phases of their lives. Problems  frequently reported include:

  • Difficulty obtaining identification when one has no personal records.
  • Irregular phone services barring employee call-backs.
  • Inability to provide a permanent residence or identification for applications.
  • Limited understanding of effective job application strategies (i.e. no resumes, no professional clothing).
  • Lack of clarity navigating available public resources for veterans, healthcare, foodstamps, etc.

Issues like these and others can be easily addressed by volunteers who are resourceful, tech-savvy, and possess the communication skills and persistence to sit and “wait-on-hold” for as long as it takes. The idea behind the OwlsHelp Consulting initiative is to build a ready taskforce of student volunteers who are willing to provide individualized support for folks who could use a helping hand.

Logistics:

RCoHH currently operate a volunteer-run hotline that is advertised to the homeless community through our sack lunch distribution program Sandwiches-for-All. Individuals who call the hotline are given the option of discussing their current situation with volunteer coordinators. Clients are then screened based on feasibility of successful reincorporation.

Once selected, clients are paired with a team of 3-5 volunteers who create an individualized plan to help meet their needs and goals. Volunteers are responsible for meeting with the client on a regular basis and providing assistance, direction, and mentorship as necessary. Periodic training in case management from established social work programs like SEARCH Homeless Services, Houston Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, and the MHMRA’s PATH Program will be offered to help build OWLSHelp capacity to serve.

Vision:

The long-term vision for the OWLSHelp Consulting initiative is to create a first-of-its kind student-run case management program for the homeless. The program models itself after successful organizations like SEARCH Homeless Services and Community Access which provide each of their clients with an individualized rehabilitation and counseling plan to achieve their goals. As our client load begins to scale up, we are continuing to engage the student body at Rice University and beyond for dedicated volunteers.

Our short-term goal is to is to attain a capacity of helping between 5-10 clients transition out of homelessness each year, while creating detailed protocols and training guides for future students to utilize. Our long-term goal is to provide students with a much deeper insight into the circumstances and challenges facing America’s poor. In the process of working through the issues faced by the homeless population, each of the OWLSHelp Team walks away with incredible insight that extends long after they graduate from their studies and into their chosen careers.

Current Status:

Currently, OWLSHelp is in its pilot stage. From September 2013, the group has been focusing its efforts on its first client — a single mother of five, who has been facing intermittent housing insecurity for the past several years. Since working with OWLSHelp, the client has shown significant progress in improving her living situation. Despite only a short period of intervention, the OWLSHelp team has been able to provide a number of key services to the client, which has included:

  • Obtaining legal documents for job and housing applications (social security cards, birth certificates, photo IDS)
  • Creating the client’s first resume, applying to dozens of jobs, and providing transportation to job interviews
  • Establishing a Google Voice phone-number for the client that forwards employer calls to the OWLSHelp inbox when her phone service has been disconnected
  • Submitting applications for public housing and advocating on client’s behalf
  • Providing emergency food supplies during cuts in SNAP (food stamps) access
  • Obtaining donated space heaters and warm clothing during winter months
  • Providing donated professional clothing for interviews
  • Offering constant moral and emotional support

Going forward, the OWLSHelp team will be continuing to assist the client secure full-time employment, public housing, and educational programs for her eldest children.

Apply Today:

Because of the potentially involved nature of the OWLSHelp Consulting Project we ask that all volunteers complete an application to best identify where they might fit. The application is also the best place to learn about the specific roles and expectations volunteers can choose to get involved with. If you’re a student or volunteer interested in getting involved please follow this link to our online application. We’ll get back to you shortly with more details.

Check us out on the trail! (Please note: To maintain the confidentiality of our clients, we never post their photos online.) [flickr_set id=”72157641914570913″]

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