Street scene

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  July 21, 2010

While HOME Team outreach workers initiate most contact, they are occasionally summoned directly by police officers or business owners.

"They handle these folks," says Dan Hatt, who owns the Emerald City gift store on Congress Street. He's called the HOME Team several times since their early-July launch. (For example, he called to report a man wandering in the intersection of High and Congress streets last week.) "I think they're doing great. I'm starting to already see a decline" in behaviors that he worries could deter customers.

One of the HOME Team's goals is "to intervene before somebody feels like they have to call the police," says Tom Allan, executive director of Milestone. In doing so, the HOME project hopes reduce downtown disruptions, petty crimes, and unnecessary utilization of city services.

Over the course of the year, Thomas Chalmers-McLaughlin at the University of New England's Center for Research Evaluation will assess the program's effectiveness by quantifying types of interventions and keeping track of hospital-admission rates and calls to police and emergency medical services.

"We think we're going to be able to show a great savings," Allan says. Involving so many organizations and agencies fits into the broader purpose as well. "Homelessness is everybody's problem — it's a community issue that really calls for a broad community response."

And there are benefits on both ends. Flynn, 31, says he's "trying to help people who are in the same position I was." In the van, on the way from Congress to the pier, he looks out the window and says: "I can also say that I go home every day and feel good about what I do."

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