Equality for Utahns based on awareness

Story and photo by PAUL S. GRECO

Awareness is a compelling issue among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. “Our biggest obstacle on Capitol Hill in Utah is awareness,” said Brandie Balken, Equality Utah’s executive director.

She said a lack of understanding regarding the rights of the state’s LGBT citizens daunts advocates. Envisioning a fair and just Utah is Equality Utah’s hope.

“Equality means all of us,” Balken said.

Equality Utah, located in downtown Salt Lake City, was established in 2001. It is the state’s largest civil rights organization for LGBT Utahns.

Max Green, a University of Utah alumnus, has been Equality Utah’s advocacy coordinator since December 2011.

Max Green with Equality Utah.

Green said he conducts citizen-lobbying and advocacy trainings to educate people about LGBT concerns. He alerts individuals to help make political changes that will bring equality to Utah’s LGBT community.

He said the primary goal of these trainings is to increase the number of supporters who will vote for more fair-minded officials.

Homelessness among LGBT youth

In 2008, UCLA’s Williams Institute used data gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate Utah’s LGB population at between 47,000 and 63,000.

In its mission statement, Equality Utah advocates to secure equal rights and protections for LGBT Utahns. Along these lines, Green addressed the concern of self-disclosure. He said there are safety factors involved. “It’s not necessarily safe for everyone to come out,” he said.

“There are people who are so admittedly against the LGBT community,” Green added, “that if it’s their child, they don’t know how they would react.”

He said many youth end up homeless when they come out to their parents.

According to the 2011 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness in Utah, “Sexual orientation is often cited in studies of homeless youth as one of the contributing factors in a youth’s reason for being expelled or running away from home. In the Utah survey, 29% of homeless youth were not heterosexual.”

This survey was conducted by the Volunteers of America Youth Drop-in Center, Salt Lake County Youth Services, the Utah Pride Center and Valley Mental Health. The report was based on youth aged 15 to 24.

LGBT youth and suicide

Another result of inequality and unfairness is suicide. As a member of Utah’s LGBT community, Green lost three close friends – in the course of junior high school through college.

“Not as a result of their sexuality, but their treatment because of their sexuality,” Green said.

According to a 2009 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “LGB young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence [compared to heterosexual young adults] were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression.”

Bullying problems

Green said he not only wants Utahns to be aware of the LGBT concerns, but also for the LGBT community to be aware that change can and is happening.

In 2011, two Utah school districts, Salt Lake and Park City, passed an anti-bullying policy that includes sexual orientation. This is enforced among students as well as school employees.

Also involved in promoting equality for LGBT Utahns is the Human Rights Education Center of Utah (HREC), founded by Carla Kelley. She serves as HREC’s executive director and advocates against bias, bullying and discrimination of LGBT individuals.

“We have no right to dehumanize any human being,” Kelley said.

Kelley is not a member of the LGBT community; however, she is a single mother of three with one son who is openly gay.

Civic Ventures recognized Kelley as a social entrepreneur over 60. She also has received several acknowledgements for her humanity efforts. In 2009, Kelley was named Wasatch Woman of the Year by Wasatch Woman Magazine.

Kelley explained that it would be beneficial for individuals to check their biases and ask, “Why do I have these?”  Kelley said self-awareness of personal biases can help individuals better understand inequalities through association.

Equality Utah’s website details ways for individuals to get involved. Similarly, HREC has information on how to advocate for LGBT rights.

Max Green, with Equality Utah, said, “I believe that a better place to live is one where all of its citizens are respected, everyone has value, everyone has the same footing under the law. If society were changed slightly, not just for one group but for all of us, it would make a huge difference on the lives of kids growing up today.”

Raising awareness helps reduce the number of homeless LGBT youth

Story and photo by RACHEL JACKSON

Awareness is the first step toward acceptance.

One of the most important ways to help homeless youth of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is through awareness and this is one of the top priorities among LGBT centers in Salt Lake City.

The Utah Pride Center has a youth activities program called TINT (Tolerant Intelligent Network of Teens), which is a vital part of the center. It provides a safe haven for youth ages 14 to 20 — regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

The TINT center

The TINT center is part of the Utah Pride Center and is located in the Marmalade district of downtown Salt Lake City.

“We see a high level of family rejection at TINT, if they were accepted it wouldn’t be such a big issue,” said Danielle Watters, director of community support and wellness services at the Utah Pride Center.

Youth can stop in to chat with the volunteers or fellow young people during the designated drop-in times. The open times are typically from 2 to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

The TINT program stresses that it is not just a gay group for youth — the main goal is to give kids a safe place to hang out.

Along with a pool table, a library and video games, TINT offers support groups for youth who are in need of someone who will just listen.

“A physical place where youth can feel safe is really important,” Watters said. “It can be scary for them [to be homeless]. They need a place where they can access basic needs.”

Jaaycob Okumura sought help two years ago from TINT when he was coming out as gay.

“The TINT [center] has helped me by giving me a safe space to grow and learn who I am,” Okumura said in an email. He is now the coordinator for the Queer and Straight Alliance at the Utah Pride Center.

Watters said a young member of the LGBT community can become homeless in several different ways. Family rejection is the most prevalent type; the next most common form is when LGBT students move here for various reasons and have nowhere else to turn after their funds fall short.

Social acceptance also plays a big role in homelessness. Watters said some youth are fired from their jobs because they are LGBT. Then they have trouble getting a new one.

The TINT center also has a program that allows homeless or non-homeless youth to always have a place to eat. According to its website, the center’s motto is, “If the TINT is open, soup’s on!”

Soup isn’t the only thing the TINT center dishes up. The program serves an educational meeting every Saturday to educate LGBT youth on HIV.

The program is called Rise! and its goal is to end HIV in the community. It has a commitment to inspire queer youth to make a change, with the idea in mind that HIV impacts everyone. According to the Rise! website, it takes an effort from all to make the ending of HIV a reality.

It takes a “responsibility of educated community members,” said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. “That’s how we build a better community.”

Equality Utah continues to work on implementing laws and informing Utahns in order to reach a point where LGBT members are recognized as a part of the community.

“It’s a top priority to gain visibility and awareness,” Balken said. Equality Utah strives for change and bringing to light the problem of having unequal policy.

Equality Utah has a petition on its website that people can sign. The petition will abolish the law that protects employers from firing a person for being LGBT or being uncomfortable with an employee’s sexual orientation.

According to the Equality Utah website, the No. 1 issue for the LGBT community is “securing measures that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, public accommodation, education and extension of credit.”

Equality Utah and the Pride Center are both striving for LGBT equal rights and fair treatment for all people.

Another non-discriminative resource for youth is the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. It is run by the Volunteers of America organization. The center, located at 655 S. State St., also has a drop-in time when youth can stop in for basic needs such as showering and doing laundry.

Last year, 1,047 youth were helped through the programs offered there. The programs include street outreach, drop-in center and a transition home.

Through all of these different resources, youth have a chance to feel safe, know they are not alone and talk to someone who has experience.

“Though I have never been a homeless youth, [TINT] has still been a safe haven for me whenever I have needed it,” Okumura said in an email. “[And it] has given me the opportunity to learn life skills.”

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, mental health court, address criminal recidivism in Utah

by JAVAN RIVERA

Taking action to solve Utah’s homeless problem could save Salt Lake City taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Homeless men and women wander the streets of downtown Salt Lake City every day. Many avoid the homeless, brush off their panhandling and go about their daily business. They never stop to think about how these people ended up in their current situation, much less how the growing problem of the mentally ill homeless population might cost far more in taxes than a handful of quarters to a panhandler ever will.

Since 2001, the Salt Lake County mental health court has been helping to reduce the rate of criminal recidivism among Salt Lake City’s mentally ill. Through a system of what Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill likes to call “restorative justice,” the mental health court has reduced repeat offenses through weekly court dates and proper medication. This therapeutic take on justice is what Gill believes will not only help with Salt Lake City’s homeless criminal offense problem, but also save taxpayers a lot of money.

“We are bankrupting ourselves into oblivion,” Gill said of the current system of “zero tolerance” enacted by most of U.S. law and justice systems. “We need to seek out alternatives to incarceration; we need to focus on therapeutic justice, and we need to focus on locking up those we are afraid of, not those who we don’t like.”

Salt Lake County’s mental health court works on what Gill calls a “system approach,” something he thinks of as simple problem-solving. He believes that all too often, the legal system relies on “crisis management” rather than proactively preventing repeat offenses by taking active measures right away. This is the core of mental health court.

“The neat thing about the people we serve in mental health court is that simple medication is often enough to reduce recidivism,” said Jeannie Edens, supervisor of the Day Reporting Center of Criminal Justice Services (DRC).

Edens’ work at DRC allows her to see the benefits of mental health court both for the participants who are sent to the program as well as the taxpayers whose money is being put to more efficient use. She feels that the work being done at DRC is important to a fair judicial system.

DRC provides an alternative to jail time by allowing criminals to participate in intensive case management that includes treatment, educational and employment opportunities to prevent criminal recidivism. DRC  works regularly with Salt Lake County’s mental health court.

“In a regular court setting a judge may not know that a person has mental health problems,” Edens said. “They think it’s just another substance abuse problem and could sentence them to longer and harsher punishments.”

It’s those longer sentences that usually end up costing Utah taxpayers. According to Gill, conservatively, the average cost of detaining, treating and processing a mentally ill criminal offender is often in the range of thousands of dollars. That includes the cost of police dispatch, ambulance, medical treatment, court processing, and jail time—all of which, Gill said, is coming out of the taxpayer’s wallet.

“So it’s not just a good progressive idea that I’m talking about,” Gill said. “It’s become a fiscal reality as well.”

For Gill, however, mental health court provides more than just an opportunity to reduce repeat offenses and increase fiscal efficiency in Salt Lake County’s criminal justice system. It also allows the criminal justice system to treat these mentally ill offenders in a manner that denotes respect and dignity, despite their current situation.

“The worst thing you can do to a person is make them insignificant,  to disrespect them,” Gill said. “This program [mental health court] respects them.”

It’s that respect that Gill believes has helped to bring about the success of mental health court in Salt Lake County. Through the program, officials have seen a decrease of recidivism from 68 percent to between 17 to 19 percent among participants, Gill said. Additionally, the number of “event failures,” the amount of time between significant lapses of criminal behavior, have increased from an average of 230 days to more than 1,300 days.

“Is this a perfect model? Absolutely not,” Gill said. “Is it a better one? Damn straight.”

Mental health court offers a helping hand to those willing to accept

by LEWIS WALKER

Are the court and prison systems really meant to seek out the morally right thing for communities, or are they too quick to target and punish those who are mentally unstable? Maybe there are more solutions to clean and sober living rather than simply locking people up.

Sitting hunched over in the front row of chairs at a chapel service at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake shelter with a bloody tissue from a generic nosebleed was 72-year-old Herbert Smith. Smith has been homeless for so long he no longer calls a single place home. “Being homeless is nothing pretty, it ruins you in ways you couldn’t even imagine,” said Smith. Drugs are most of the reasons why Smith has come into contact with prison cells. “It’s sad because most of the drugs are coming from different countries, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what a COCO leaf looks like, but I got it somehow,” said smith.

Historically the mentally ill (homeless) have been victims to the shackles of the law enforcement due to the addictions they may suffer from. People working in a field close to these people have to come up with some sort of better resource, and one person in this field in Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney. Gill recently laid out his foundation for the University of Utah about his plans on helping these people.

Gill, using his own resources looks at ways to help these unsettled human beings, by providing systems such as drug court and mental health court. These focus to help guide them in the right direction. They aid in providing new resources such as correct prescriptions, temporary housing and teaching them about self medicating.

“We can only help the people that want to be helped,“ Gill said. These systems are totally voluntary. They give people the choice, the chance, as well as the responsibility to turn their lives around. The ones who choose to participate will undergo weekly urine analysis to detect relapses. This process places them in a non-judgmental community, surrounding them with others who may suffer from the same problems.

Are the policies of the Law Enforcement making things better? Of course, they do a lot for communities to make civilians feel safer and protected, but the question that stems from this is; are they doing it in the right ways? According to Herbert Smith, “They track down the easiest prey they can find.”

Kreeck Mendez agrees with the systems that Gill has helped to put in place to help these people get back on their feet. “I find Sim a good supporter of these people,” said Kreeck Mendez. Although the systems are not perfect, she says they are the best resource she has seen in her 20 years of working with the courts.

Many criticize these people being temporarily housed in the parks, but no one is quick to help. “We tend to go after the people that make us uncomfortable not necessarily the ones we dislike or scared of,” said Deborah Kreeck Mendez, a legal defense attorney. The prisons have become temporary housing cells for mentally unstable people due to deinstitutionalization of mental health institutions. These people now have no place to go, except turning to the streets, where it makes them easier to target. “They are harder to work with, so why not get them away so my world is better,” said Kreeck Mendez.

Drug abuse is a serious problem for a lot of people in this country. The choices made ruins lives, families, careers, and many more things. Some say why not help the addicts, some say why help them its their problem. Deborah Kreeck Mendez says, “Drug problems should not be imprisoned, but helped.” What good does it do to lock them up and not give case management skills to help them get over their mistakes?

The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country, is it considered wrong when all we do is preach about LIBERTY and FREEDOM? “The law enforcement targets the people that are least able to help themselves,” said Kreeck Mendez. “White middle-class people get off with drug possession much easier than non-whites,” added Kreeck Mendez

We must look at the world in sections if this is the case. We are divided into pieces, leaving cracks separating us depending on our socioeconomic statuses as well as our race, ethnic backgrounds, and our conviction rates. Who’s to say every crack in this world may one day be filled!

Rehabilitating the homeless: Hopeless or helpful?

by FRANCES MOODY

Editor’s note: The following is an essay in response to “Million-dollar Murray,” an article by Malcom Gladwell in the Feb. 13, 2006 issue of The New Yorker

The sight of a drunken homeless man weaving in and out of oncoming traffic isn’t uncommon for a city dweller to witness.  To the average person, such sightings are viewed as blemishes covering the complexion of an otherwise beautiful place.  However, to some, those drunkards are icons that bring character and action to dull metropolitan life. In Reno, Nev., Murray Barr, known on the streets as “Smokey,” was that iconic personality. He loved alcohol and after his daily routine of blacking out, Murray fell to his bed, the sidewalk. One police officer, Steve Johns said, “I picked up Murray my whole career. Literally.” Over the years, Murray had run up a hospital bill of close $1 million, an amount that could have been put to better use.  In his article, “Million-Dollar Murray,” for the (Feb. 13, 2006) New Yorker Magazine, Malcolm Gladwell documents Murray’s story and proposes causes for and solutions to the epidemic of homelessness. Solutions in the article range from extremist law enforcement to long-term rehabilitation strategies.

Though Gladwell offers many resolutions, he ultimately displays society’s conflicting views on the subject matter. Due to legal obligations, political viewpoints and personal opinions, society will never agree on a definite answer to end homelessness.

One such problem associated with the homeless is panhandling. Homeless panhandlers roam the sidewalks of cities. Most panhandle to support drinking habits. The panhandling was for liquor, and the liquor was anything but harmless,” Gladwell writes. Gladwell suggests that begging for money is at an all-time low, but even worse, the products bought with that money present a bigger problem. When inebriated Murray passed out, police and paramedics were called to the scene. At just one of the three local hospitals in Reno, Murray ran a bill of $100 thousand. A logical answer to this problem would be to put a stop to panhandling. The Police Department of Reno held the same viewpoint and commenced an initiative to limit panhandling. Most Reno police took the program seriously, possibly to the extreme. They produced a high amount of criticism. “The crackdown on panhandling amounted to harassment, the critics said,” Gladwell writes. Harassment insinuates unfair treatment of human beings. While homeless men and women, like Murray, choose not to follow the standards of mainstream culture, they still have the same human/ constitutional rights. Homeless panhandling is not a pretty sight, but neither is harassment.

Stopping panhandling in Reno was an easy answer to a multi-layered issue. In an attempt to find an answer, Gladwell analyzes the mathematical distribution of homeless people. Through research provided by Boston College Graduate, Dennis Culhane, Gladwell discovered that the majority of homeless people are homeless for about a day. Such people are not nuisances like Murray, who pass out on the streets day after day. Culhane referred to people like Murray as “chronically homeless.” Only 10 percent of the homeless are associated with this definition. Gladwell recognizes this disproportionate distribution and surely, with close attention, that 10 percent can be rehabilitated.

Murray went through “detox” numerous times. His hospital bills amounted to big numbers and he never seemed to get better. Like most of the chronically homeless, Murray needed help. “They need time and attention and lots of money. But enormous sums of money are already being spent on the chronically homeless,” Gladwell writes. In one year, a group of 119 chronically homeless people in New York visited the emergency room 11,834 times. Each visit cost a thousand dollars. Why not use that money for long-term rehabilitation (in legal terms, known as the power-law homeless policy)? Long-term rehabilitation includes housing and therapy.  The city of Denver decided to use long-term rehabilitation as a solution to homelessness. Enrollees are given apartments, but must follow the program guidelines. Guidelines include: weekly appointments with case workers, doctor visitations, and psychiatric treatment.  “The cost of services comes to about $10 thousand per homeless client per year,” Gladwell writes. Millions of dollars are spent on the chronically homeless. That amount could be reduced to thousands of dollars.

It is convenient to rationalize that long-term rehabilitation is the best way to solve homelessness, especially from an economic perspective. On the other hand, as a moral question, the Power-law homeless policy can be viewed as unfair. “Thousands of people in Denver no doubt, live day to day, work two or three jobs, and are eminently deserving of a helping hand—and no one offers them the keys to a new apartment. Yet that’s what the guy screaming obscenities and swigging Dr. Tich [mouthwash] gets,” Gladwell writes. Shouldn’t the more deserving have access to government funds that offer free housing? This proposes a political issue. Conservatives view the idea of power-laws as unfair to more-deserving members of society, while liberals tend to oppose the idea of civilization turning into a mathematical structure with no human component.  Power-law homeless policy would prove to be non-existent in the two-party system of the United States.

Even if U.S. citizens agreed on long-term rehabilitation to solve chronic homelessness, other problems would persist. For example, a chronically homeless person may plainly disagree that he should change his way of life.  “The idea that the very sickest and most troubled can be stabilized and eventually employed is only a hope,” writes Gladwell. Gladwell gives the example of a man (name unknown) with cirrhosis of the liver. He was 27-years-old. This man participated in Denver’s long-term rehabilitation plan. The policy did not repair him. He trashed two apartments and went straight back to street life, comfortable with his condition. The plague of homelessness and how to solve it has many components. It not only surfaces on legal and political levels, but also on an individual level.

Homeless outreach brings Volunteers of America’s resources to the streets

Story and audio slideshow by LAURA SCHMITZ

Go on a ride-along with the Homeless Outreach Team.

When Buddy Tymczyszyn and Kimberly Bell go to work each day, they don’t need to put on fancy clothes or stare at a computer screen. They don’t need to worry about office politics. But, during the winter, they definitely can’t leave home without their gloves.

Just west of the hubbub of downtown Salt Lake City rests their quaint work center, housing a program that actively pursues a population with which few are familiar.

Utah’s arm of Volunteers of America facilitates a Homeless Outreach Program that is constantly ready for action, equipped with a van-full of necessities, including food, water, beanies and blankets.

A national, nonprofit organization, VOA has a presence in 44 states and employs a range of paid staff, who work to tackle issues such as homelessness and drug addiction.

Tymczyszyn, 22, and Bell, 24, join forces to make up the outreach team. Together, the two pack up a van with supplies each morning to scan the streets of the west side for homeless people in need.

“We do a lot of driving,” Tymczyszyn said of his 40-hours-per-week job in the field.

“Part of [the program] is to get people socks, jackets and blankets — stuff to keep them warm and safe on the streets,” he said. “But the heart of it underneath is to help them with any kind of deeper, underlying issues that may be keeping them out there.”

Both began their posts with a “heart” for the homeless population.

“None of us really deserve to be where we’re at,” Bell said. “Those of us that have enough money or family support to be able to stay in a warm place and have good food, it’s not because we did anything to deserve it.”

The team documents every shoe, scarf and bag of chips they give out in order to ensure that VOA receives adequate donations and its clients — the homeless people they serve — are given proper financial support.

VOA’s donations come largely from the Utah Food Bank and individual donors. Clients will receive state funding based in part on the amount of services they receive from the organization.

As Tymczyszyn and Bell traverse alleys and fields, searching for potential clients, they will often discover vacant tents, blankets or sleeping bags — evidence of a shelter.

“Some are remarkably easy to find,” Tymczyszyn said. “They follow the same, routine pattern every day.”

If the team reaches a “home” of someone who is not there, they will “water bomb” or “sock bomb” the residence, leaving a water bottle or pair of socks with VOA’s business card attached.

“It helps give us a good name to them, so the next time we see them, they can recognize us or they can just give us a call from that number,” Bell said.

During outreach missions, Bell and Tymczyszyn said clients’ reaction to them depends on their approach.

“A lot of times it takes meeting someone five or 10 times before they trust you enough to talk to you. The next step is learning their name, then the step after that is having them take a pair of socks or a bottle of water from you,” Tymczyszyn said. “Every little step of the way is a success.”

Cliff Thurber, 54, has made the streets of Salt Lake City his home for several years. A regular client of VOA, he is an example of the established trust its staff strive to build, as he candidly spoke with Tymczyszyn and Bell like old friends.

“They’ve given me food and good [conversation] and comforting thoughts, so that’s been helpful,” Thurber said of the two.

Thurber moved from Provo to Salt Lake City, seeking a steadier income. He now sells the Salt Lake Street News, a newspaper put out by the Salt Lake City Mission. The nonprofit publication is specifically geared to help people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

“I earn 50 cents a paper,” Thurber said. “Once I sell them, I can turn more money back in and get more papers to sell. I buy them for 50 cents and sell them for a dollar — sometimes people donate more. It’s really coming along.”

Thurber said he does his best to remain law-abiding in his lifestyle.

“Police have never really hassled me,” Thurber said. “I’ve tried to stay above the law and tried to not do anything [illegal] — not be drunk in public places or anything like that. That’s not good,” he said with a laugh.

Though several clients are experiencing homelessness because of job loss or negative life circumstances, some come to VOA with needs arising from addictions.

One frequent client, Kevin Hansen, openly said he was on the streets because of a history of alcoholism.

“I just love alcohol,” Hansen said, describing what he believes to be the ultimate reason for his homelessness.

His past “hurts sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t.”

Bell and Tymcyzcyzn both agreed their job can be emotionally taxing as they build relationships with their clients and struggle with them through their situations.

“Sometimes, I want to make people’s decisions for them,” Bell said. “Some of our clients are really intoxicated all the time. They drink a lot constantly, and it’s a way for them to drown their pain, but they’re slowly killing themselves — I just want to make them stop [for their own good].”

One goal of the homeless outreach team is an initiative they call harm-reduction. Tymczyszyn said the goal of harm-reduction is to try to get clients into a better situation immediately, working toward the deeper-rooted problems later.

The team provides needle-cleaning kits and safer methods of using cocaine in order to minimize the adverse consequences of the drugs while coming out of addiction.

“If they’re going to use needle drugs, how can they clean their needle to do it safely? If they’re going to sleep outside on the street that night no matter what, how can we try to help them stay warm in the process?” Tymczyszyn said.

Bell said that though she sometimes feels “helpless” because of the negative habitual cycles some clients fall into, she recognizes that any change is “ultimately their choice.”

Despite challenges that come with the territory, Bell said her job is rewarding.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I don’t want to live too far removed from the tragedy that exists,” she said. “I don’t just want to live in ignorance, because ignorance is bliss, but our world isn’t a blissful place.”

This year marks VOA Utah’s 25th anniversary. According to its website, it boasts about 140 paid, professional staff who serve more than 10,000 people throughout the state each year.

“Substance abuse and homelessness are the main areas of focus in Utah,” said Zach Bale, director of external relations for VOA Utah. “We go where we’re the most needed, and do what needs to be done.”

The homeless outreach team is in the field 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

“It’s the most incredible job in the world — I can’t believe I get paid for it,” Bell said.