New outreach specialist addresses needs of unsheltered population in downtown Wilmington

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wilmington Downtown iNC (WDI) has hired a new street outreach specialist to help establish relationships and build trust with people living on the streets of downtown Wilmington.

As a member of the Municipal Service District (MSD) Ambassador team, Jack Morris will identify individuals willing to receive assistance and will connect them to the region’s network of social services.

“The circumstances of each person in need of help are all unique, from mental health and substance abuse issues to little to no income or ability to get into a shelter or find housing,” said President and CEO of WDI Holly Childs. “What makes this initiative so unique is that we can collaborate. We can identify who these folks are, see what their individual needs are, and see where we can help. And that’s the goal — to connect these people to the right services, or bring them to places where they are sheltered and feel safe.”

An initial survey of downtown’s unsheltered population was conducted in October by Block by Block, the MSD operations management company that runs the Ambassadors Program. The results indicated that, on average, about 30 people were living in the streets of downtown Wilmington. Many individuals reached during this three-day assessment period experienced a range of life issues and barriers to service.

Morris, a trained social worker, works in collaboration with other social service workers, police, fire and EMS to build trust and help those in need.

Within his first hour on the job, Morris connected with a homeless individual experiencing a mental health crisis and was able to get the person connected with services.

“There is no cookie-cutter solution to this,” said Morris. “The needs are all different. As the service providers and outreach providers get into this, it has to be a collaborative effort. I’m very excited to be in this role, to engage with this part of our community and see where I can make a difference. Unfortunately for some, this is the life they have chosen to live and we can only help make minor improvements to the quality of life. But every small victory goes a long way.”

Previously, Morris worked as an outreach case manager for a homeless outreach center in Pennsylvania. He is equipped to handle various conditions such as drug and alcohol addiction, as well as mental health issues, including schizophrenia and PTSD. He has earned a Crisis Intervention Certification and is a Certified Peer Specialist.

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