Las Vegas Salvation Army, law enforcement conduct ‘MORE’ homeless outreach
Team makes contact with almost 11,000 individuals to connect them with services.
By Vivian Lopez –
Every weekday, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officers, City of Las Vegas Marshals, and representatives from local agencies, including The Salvation Army, split up into three groups. One goes downtown, one goes to the Corridor of Hope Courtyard area, and the other to the city’s outskirts.
Then, they get to work.
“We have been working on revitalization of our downtown. In conversations with businesses coming into the area and people who live in the downtown, one of their major concerns was for the homeless in the area. We needed a way to engage them or…offer them services,” said Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher, City of Las Vegas community services administrator. “The [Multiagency Outreach Resource Engagement] MORE outreach team was what we came up with.”
Team members conduct assessments via tablets, enter clients in the Homeless Management Information System, and link them to services that would best meet their needs. This includes everything from rehabilitation centers to housing programs. They also transport clients to shelters, detox centers, medical facilities and more—as needed.
The City of Las Vegas provides funding for The Salvation Army of Las Vegas, Help of Southern Nevada, U.S. Vets and WestCare Nevada to hire employees to work full-time on the MORE team.
“We bring that expertise from many different agencies together to work as one team,” Bluitt-Fisher said. “So no matter what they encounter on the streets, there’s someone there…to address their needs.”
Juan Salinas, Salvation Army Las Vegas Social Services Director, said having law enforcement present during MORE team operations provides an added sense of security when going into the city’s homeless encampments.
“It provides that security. You never know what you’re going to face out there,” Salinas said.
There’s also a MORE team hotline that anyone can call to receive assistance or report a tip for someone else who may need it.
Bluitt-Fisher said The Salvation Army was a natural partner to choose for the team.
“The Salvation Army has been an amazing partner with the City of Las Vegas in our work to serve homeless people for years,” she said. “We’ve always had a great relationship with them and their programs have always produced great results.”
According to Major Randy Kinnamon, Salvation Army Las Vegas Citadel Corps Officer and Clark County Coordinator, the MORE team isn’t just about beefing up services for the homeless, but increasing access to those services.
“It’s easy just to sit there and wait for someone to come in the front door. But what about the people who don’t even know about that front door?” Kinnamon said. “Our goal is to let our services be available to as many people in need as possible.”
MORE Homeless Outreach Case Manager Rafael Rodriguez is a Salvation Army representative in one of the groups, and he sees firsthand the impact the team is having on the city’s homeless population.
“Initially, there is that, ‘Wow, the cops are here’ response. When the officers clarify they’re not here to arrest anyone [but] to provide services, then the mentality changes,” Rodriguez said. “We are now more recognizable by the population. We drive in a city vehicle and they see our uniforms, and they’ll flag us down…It creates a better trust between the population that we serve and law enforcement. Law enforcement gets a different perspective of them as well.”
Rodriguez recalls a success story in which they located a client battling a 27-year drug addiction and connected him to Medication-Assisted Treatment services.
“This option gave him hope,” he said. “The job itself is very rewarding,” Rodriguez said. “This is a great opportunity for us case managers to step outside of the offices and look at the real situation with no filters and how life on the streets really is.”