SNAP Homeless Services – working for collaborative and efficient ways to serve clients

Providing services to the homeless is a combination of challenges, some which have been around seemingly forever and are easy to anticipate, though not always easy to solve, and others that are unexpected. In speaking with Arielle Anderson, head of Homeless Services at SNAP, this combination of factors is clear.

Anderson has been a part of SNAP for over six years, with over four of those in Homeless Services. Her work ranges from sourcing and managing multiple funding streams to providing input into Spokane’s Homeless Management Information System to participating in direct homeless street outreach, meeting clients and helping find housing resources for them. If anything, the scope and variety of work that comes with her leadership role energizes Anderson and inspires her to lead her team of thirteen people to produce real, lasting, and tangible results.

One of the results she is clearly proud of is the placement of sixty-one homeless clients into permanent housing since March. She characterizes these as “forever” housing placements, not just temporary fixes. “While we can’t find housing for all the homeless in Spokane,” she says, “these placements have real and positive impact on an individual level and a community level.”

Finding housing for those in need requires the coordination of a number of different local organizations, each working according to its own objectives and unique sets of resources and expertise. Three groups in which the SNAP team participate are Community Court, which offers a way for individuals to work to expunge misdemeanors on their records, Hotspotters, which focuses on health care needs of the homeless, and The Huddle, a weekly meeting with many of the community partners conducting outreach and working with homeless individuals who are living on the streets. This new collaboration works to coordinate the best service approaches in response to the needs of specific homeless clients who are known within the circles of service providers. “Over time,” Anderson says, “we have become better and better at balancing local organizational resources to focus on the needs of the clients we are trying to serve.”

Anderson notes that each homeless client has his or her own set of circumstances and needs. There are also constantly changing environmental factors that come into play. Take the impact of COVID-19. While the initial fear was that the virus could have a disproportionate health impact on the homeless population in Spokane, that has not been the case. “What we really fear,” says Anderson, “is what will happen in August if COVID-related laws are not changed, allowing landlords to evict tenants who have fallen behind in their rent due to virus-related income losses. We can’t find housing for all the homeless as it is. Where will the resources come from if the number of homeless increases exponentially as a result of these evictions?”

“And sometimes we get in our own way,” says Anderson wryly. “Until recently, we required clients we served to have a photo ID, among other documents we required. That may sound simple, but for someone who has no permanent address and may have additional problems with illiteracy, lack necessary supporting documents or basic computer skills, acquiring a photo ID can be a huge challenge. Once we realized that our funders do not require that kind of identification, we simplified our own requirements to reduce that barrier for our clients.”