PATH - Projects for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness
A new initiative funded by the NJ Division of Mental Health Services is the PATH program. PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness) is an Outreach Program that engages homeless individuals with mental illness living in emergency shelters or "on the streets" in the Newark area. Project Live drew upon its 25+ years of experience working with the homeless individuals with mental illness to develop this initiative funded by the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Assertive outreach techniques are used to engage homeless people with mental illness who are not (and perhaps never have been) engaged with mental health services. This outreach program aims to re-integrate consumers with local mainstream services. To make this program successful, it has been vitally important to develop a collaborative working relationship with a diverse range of community stakeholders.
Attracting and building trust with the homeless community is the most challenging aspect of the project. Therefore, conducting street outreach is done simultaneously with maintaining collaborations and affiliation agreements with other service providers in the Newark area.
Locating homeless individuals is done in several ways. PATH Support and Peer Counselors outreach at emergency shelters, motels, train and bus stations, airport, parks in and around the downtown Newark area, abandoned buildings, under bridges, drop-in programs, by visiting community health centers, as well as by taking "walking shifts" in any areas known for its probability of being frequented by homeless individuals. By developing trust and solution-based relationships with homeless individuals, PATH staff attempts to draw out the difficult to reach "hidden homeless" and link them to services provided by Project Live and/or other mental health providers in the community.
Additionally, the PLI PATH Team is a recognized statewide "SOAR" - SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery -Technical Assistance trainer for other agencies across New Jersey. The PATH staff trains case workers at other social service agencies. The SOAR program is designed to enhance staff ability to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are homeless (or at risk of homelessness) and who have a mental illness and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.
The agency’s PATH program has been in operation since 2005, working primarily in the city of Newark, and has been successful at housing over 80 homeless individuals with mental illness in their own permanent housing.