Qualities of Some Amazing Outreach Workers

Last night I had the chance to ride along with an outreach team in Calgary. It was pretty darn cold…less than -25C with the wind chill. I love doing outreach. It takes me back to my days doing community development work and street outreach. It helps me stay grounded in that part of the reality of the front line.

The people I did outreach with were two fabulous women. I’d like to dedicate this blog to the elements of them that I was so impressed by.

Grace – they honored the people they served through their action, tone of voice and commitment.

Dignity – they humbly made people feel worthy of service and reinforced the importance of how much each person deserved a safe place out of the cold.

Patience – they demonstrated the capacity to accept delay, trouble, suffering, strife, belligerence, anger, incoherence, difficulty communicating, poor hygiene – and more – without ever getting angry or upset.

Humility – they viewed their contributions with meekness and humbleness, genuinely deflecting praise.

Logistics – they navigated calls for service with precision in how best to get through traffic and around the city in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Solution Focus – they seamlessly and without intrusion focused discussions on the best way to meet each person’s needs, while also reinforcing longer term ways to end their homelessness.

Politeness – more than good manners, they genuinely embodied respectful and considerate behavior with people calling the van, passengers, colleagues and other professionals.

Empathy – they showed through actions and words how it is possible to relate to someone and understand their feelings without pity or sympathy.

Intelligence – more than facts and figures and locations and people and system knowledge, they demonstrated how to apply all of this information in tangible ways to problem solve and make the lives of the people they were serving better.

Humor – they knew that humor shared with each other helps them manage the stressors of the job, but also used humor to make the experience of receiving outreach less intense.

Teamwork – they knew – perhaps intuitively – that the combined actions of the two of them together far exceeded the contributions of either of them solo in doing their work the most effectively.

There are more qualities that I could go on about, but these are the ones that lept to the surface for me last night. I appreciated the time I spent with them and each homeless person in the van. The outreach team is definitely worthy of my highest esteem and respect.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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