A Homeless Outreach Worker’s Perspective

The following post is a guest contribution from Michael Joseph, a Homelessness Advisor for Simtech Solutions. Michael, who has experienced homelessness twice, shares his experiences in his own words, as a homeless outreach worker in San Diego.

My name is Michael Joseph, and I am a Homelessness Advisor for Simtech Solutions and supporter of others who are currently facing homelessness. I have been homeless twice now and my community here in San Diego County, and specifically at Interfaith Community Services in Escondido, has helped me get back on my feet. As a diagnosed schizophrenic and US Army Veteran with an Honorable Discharge, I did not then, and do not now take lightly the aid that has been given. At Interfaith, I was not dead weight. I did dishes in the kitchen every day. I cleaned showers, sinks and floors. I got a job as a marketing representative for a solar company in San Marcos. I took a bus and rode my bike to work 4 days a week. I was never late. I pulled up my britches in response to the help I received.

Today, I have an apartment and with my marketing job, I was able to save up $5,000.00. I used this to pay $3,000.00 for a Volvo station wagon and $1,500.00 to place a deposit on a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in Vista. This was the first time I had my own home in 18 months. My next goal is to get off of Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Medicare and I aim to accomplish this by using my own experiences to help others and get paid for my efforts. My ultimate goal is to write a romantic comedy fiction novel and publish it. When I find a way to do that, I have a sequel novel up my sleeve.
As a homeless outreach worker, when I approach someone who is homeless, I listen to them and let them know that I, too, have been homeless. I, too, have an illness. They listen and we strike up a conversation. I treat them as equals and with dignity. I tell them I would have never gotten off the streets if I had not gone through the process at Interfaith. I tell them where resources are, where the nearest transit station is. I give them a small donation. I tell them I have evolved from my successes and failures and gone through 2 systems as a homeless person. I let them know I am a Public Speaker speaking on behalf of them. They know I am extending my hand to them because I accept them for who they are in the moment I meet them. They can relate and they often tell me personal stories of their own successes and failures.
As a member of the San Diego Homeless Experienced Advocacy and Leadership (HEAL) Network, we bring the voice of individuals with lived experience of homelessness who have been most impacted by this crisis-into critical local disclosure in a meaningful and effective way. My position also makes me uniquely qualified to serve as an Advisor to Simtech Solutions. In my role with Simtech, I am informing the design of mobile apps that help to address some of the real life situations and barriers that both myself and my peers faced while trying to navigate life on the streets.
People who have housing might ask homeless persons why they do not “just get a job.” This is not an easy feat if you constantly struggle to find food to eat, water to drink, a place to sleep and somewhere to clean yourself up and go to the bathroom. I help cook monthly meals for the homeless at Interfaith in Escondido. To help with this, I also share how I fed myself while homeless. I would approach restaurant owners and ask them for a free meal in exchange for a review on their website. I figure if I write a review for them, it would be a trade instead of a donation. I used the same method to get a haircut. I only got turned down 3 times and was given free meals dozens of times. While I know that sharing this tactic has helped others secure meals, it doesn’t work as well when a lot of restaurants are closed due to Covid. Thanks to this initiative by the Lucky Duck Foundation, we are now able to provide meals to 800 people a day. Each day we do this work we are ensuring that food and water are one less thing unsheltered people have to worry about. It also shows people that they are cared for, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

Michael Joseph’s Perspective

We thank Michael Joseph for sharing his perspective as a homeless outreach worker on the important work he is doing every day to help people experiencing homelessness. Learn more about the Food and Water delivery program and find out how you can help by visiting our initiative page.

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