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Operating and Managing Street Outreach Services

NCJ Number
Angela M. Wolf, Ph.D.; Livier Gutierrez
Date Published
August 2011
7 pages
This Bulletin of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network provides guidance on operating and managing "street outreach services," which consist of trained street workers interacting with, supporting, and advocating on behalf of gang members or those at high risk for joining gangs.
The objective of street outreach work is to link marginalized and hard-to-serve individuals in communities with high levels of gang activity to social services and positive community activities that encourage nonviolent and law-abiding behavior that benefits the youth as well as the community. After describing the features and objectives of street outreach services, the Bulletin provides guidance on hiring, supporting, and caring for outreach workers. The hiring of outreach workers should involve identifying the qualities needed in an outreach worker; creating a hiring panel to establish healthy relationships with stakeholders and to protect the integrity of the hiring organization and its workers; screening candidates in a multi-step process; conducting background checks and drug testing; thinking outside of traditional human resources hiring criteria; and providing full benefits, including a fair wage and insurances. In providing advice on supporting and caring for outreach workers, the bulletin advises that because outreach workers interact with clients in violent or stressful situations, it is critical that cities support and care for their outreach workers' welfare. This requires having a built-in support system for workers. This support could be provided through regular counseling; group processing; and access to professional mental health support, particularly on occasions of trauma and crisis. Such support addresses the high turnover rate that is symptomatic of the trauma, stress, and burnout common in outreach work. The Bulletin provides examples of how various cities in California and other States have addressed the challenges of hiring and supporting outreach workers. Listings of 6 resources and 14 references