© 2017 — Blackbird Outreach

Blackbird Outreach is changing the entire paradigm of the fight against homelessness in Colorado Springs.

There are over 35 organizations in Colorado Springs dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness. Nearly all of them require their “clients” who have no means and live in a survival mentality everyday to come to their locations for services.

Blackbird Outreach fills that monumental gap: we serve folks where they are. We come to them, and help them access the systems and services dedicated to helping them.

Our volunteers are the most loving, compassionate, and big-hearted people. They know that to serve others without requirement is to lead the world in a way that is both rare and powerful.

There are 3 Paths in Blackbird Outreach Where Our Volunteer’s Can Shine!

Our Outreach Teams

Urban Peak does outreach; but only to youths. Rock Mountain Human Services (RMHS) does outreach; but only to veterans and only with CSPD HOT present.

Blackbird Outreach is a team of dedicated and courageous volunteers who outreach, navigate, and extend friendship and hope to all people living outside in Colorado Springs. We work very closely with CSPD HOT, but independent of them.

Why do we have a close working-relationship with the CSPD Homeless Outreach Team?

Our city’s 4 world-renowned Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) officers are out everyday in the camps (as much as we are). No other team has as much contact or knowledge with our friends across this city. CSPD HOT provides daily updates to us on new camps, alerts us to new friends in crisis that they don’t have the capacity to help, and cooperatively gives us the opportunity to keep enforcement interactions (that might carry legal ramifications) with CSPD to a minimum for our friends living outside.

**Please note, we are not compelled to report criminal activity to CSPD. Many folks outside have addictions and will often freely admit to illegal activity. Our utmost responsibility is to our friends trying to survive outside. We are always mindful about issues of public safety, but we do not collaborate with CSPD or provide intelligence regarding most illegal activity that folks report to us as an organization. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, assault and child abuse are exceptions. We encourage these crimes be reported immediately.**

An interesting fact about Blackbird Outreach is that ALL volunteer paths start with outreach; even people only interested in navigating or aftercare. Everyone has to do outreach training and at least one group outreach.

Why is a Group Outreach required experience for all volunteers?

We firmly believe that many of us hold unfounded fears, biases, and assumptions about people experiencing homelessness. Often, we aren’t even conscious of these things. We’ve found over and over that even one first-hand experience of meeting people trying to survive outside, seeing how they have to live, hearing their stories, changes everyone. It allows our fears, assumptions, and biases to fall away, like scales from the eyes.

Then, and only then, will our volunteers be ready to serve our friends. Only when we can see people as they are, can we serve them where they are.

Thank you for reading and considering joining our Outreach Team! Please volunteer below and we will notify you of the next upcoming Volunteer Orientation.

Our Systems Navigators

Once our Outreach Teams find our friends who are hidden all over the city and gain their trust, Blackbird Outreach can start identifying the most vulnerable and assessing how we can assist them in mobilizing out of homelessness. This is where the Systems Navigators come in.

Every system, every provider (yes, even Blackbird Outreach) has barriers and gaps that often go unidentified until they are encountered. The job of our Systems Navigators is to accompany and assist our friends as they access the myriad of systems and providers. Their presence ensures that no one is overlooked or treated poorly, and that our friends’ voices are heard and their needs are met.

We affectionately refer to our Systems Navigators as “pit bulls”. Not that they are dangerous, but that they are tenacious folks. Our Systems Navigators demand accountability for our friends, so that our friends can remain calm and resolute.

What Are Examples of Ways in Which Systems Navigators Assist People in Accessing Systems?

A great example is when our friends need to establish residency and get an ID. Even something as crucial and simple as getting an ID can be a daunting barrier for someone with no funds or transportation.

Marian House and Springs Rescue Mission offer free services to assist folks to establish legal residency through receiving mail at their offices and assistance in paying for the IDs. We can make a huge difference by simply giving someone transport to these service providers and assisting them in the application process.

Do I Need to be an Expert About All The Providers and Systems That Are in Colorado Springs?
Absolutely not, but over time you probably will become an expert. No, our directors, trainers, and leaders will help you navigate being a Systems Navigator. Especially in the beginning, you will be coached every step of the way as you reach out and connect to friends through the Outreach Team you are linked to.

And even after you are a seasoned veteran, easily identifying all the barriers and gaps as you encounter them, our staff will always be ready to assist you. Expertise is only a message or phone call away, and we’ve seen it all.

Our Housing Aftercare Teams

One of our friends has accomplished the seemingly impossible! They have attained housing again and are experiencing homelessness no longer. This is a cause for celebration, to be sure, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. Sadly, once our friends have succeeded at navigating the labyrinth of providers and systems, they still face countless pitfalls, snags, and real opportunities for failure in which they could find themselves back on the streets again.

This is where our Housing Aftercare volunteers come into play. We help our friends assess where those snags and pitfalls could be, and help them gain understanding and skills that will hopefully mitigate any missteps they might encounter in their new adventure of being housed. Most importantly, we provide hope and friendship.

What Are Examples of Ways in Which Housing Aftercare Volunteers Assist People in Maintaining Housing?
The same snags and pitfalls you experience in your daily life are exactly the same as our newly housed friends.

From budgeting income, paying bills on time, to getting nice furniture they can afford, the everyday experiences you encounter in your life are exactly what you will be helping them learn to anticipate, plan for, or avoid.

Some of this seems simple and more like common sense. Why do people sometimes struggle to maintain new housing?
This point is imperative to understand: the vast majority of people living outside are there because of trauma (over 83% of folks according to some estimates).

Trauma reactions are not the only psychiatric issue facing people who are homeless; many people experiencing homelessness also suffer from depression, substance abuse and severe mental illness. These issues leave
individuals even more vulnerable to revictimization,
interfere with their ability to work, impair their social networks, and further complicate their service needs.
These findings suggest that we will be unable to solve the issue of homelessness without addressing the underlying trauma that is so intricately interwoven with the experience of homelessness. – “Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings

It is imperative to understand that many of our friends are broken. Even the simplest things to those of us who could be considered “mildly functional” can easily overwhelm and intimidate someone who has been in “survival mode” for years, even decades.

Our Housing Aftercare volunteers are patient, caring angels. Crafty and sharp, and resolute when they need to be, but a safe guide and companion, nonetheless.