War on Opioids: House of Hope tackles addiction, homelessness

House of Hope offers hope to those on the streets living with addiction. Series Producer: Caitlin Grimaldi Photojournalist and editor: Scott Santos

House of Hope offers hope to those on the streets living with addiction.

The organization's mission is to prevent and end homelessness.

Megan Smith, who is an outreach program manager there, is on the front lines on a strip of Broad Street in the upper south side. She’s been out here for 12 years, so she’s a familiar face.

"We certainly do have folks that we see time and time again," she said, adding that they are battling homelessness and addiction.

"Do they contribute to each other? Absolutely. Folks who are experiencing homelessness have to find lots of ways to cope,” said Smith.

It is on these streets where Smith and her team work to make a difference. They actively search areas where folks might be taking solace. Aside from distributing necessities like warm socks, they hand out clean needles and the overdose antidote, naloxone.

"I'm a big believer the wider the distribution, the better,” said Smith. "I heard a great quote, actually, on the news this morning from a first responder and she said that every time I give some Narcan that's another chance for them to get into recovery, so anyone who says that Narcan is an enabling tool or anything like that hasn't been out here."

Dr. Craig Kauffman, a psychiatrist, is also part of the outreach.

"As a physician, you're going to see homeless people," said Kauffman. "You often see just snapshots of folks when they're at their worst, when they're struggling, when they're feeling their worst, so having some direct education around it is something that was lacking in my training."

Samantha Hill used to be homeless, as well as addicted to cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin.

"I was homeless at the age of 16," said Hill, who is now part of the House of Hope outreach. "I want to give back to the community, help them, let them know that there are options out there, that there are ways of changing."

Part of that process: verifying someone really is homeless, which is often required to be eligible for housing.

"Building that documentation that just because I'm not in a shelter doesn't mean I'm not homeless,” said Smith of their efforts.

But perhaps most importantly, they listen.

"I think the biggest function we serve out here is supportive listening and bearing witness to people's experience,” said Smith. "So, really just taking the time to listen to people and learning from them how we can best support them."

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