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Spotlight on Staff: Carlos Guzman, Street Outreach Worker

As the cold weather approaches and people look for warmth, Carlos Guzman, the Crossroads’ street outreach worker is out on the street looking to help . Carlos comes to Crossroads in the afternoon after he finishes his job at a mental health center and begins an evening shift that takes him to the streets where he reaches out to people living in encampments, abandoned buildings, old campers and cars. “Summer time may be over, but there are still a lot of people trying to survive outside,” Carlos says. “We need to try to get them to come in for shelter and services before the cold weather gets here.” Carlos admits that some people will try to stick it out no matter how bad the elements are, but he has had some real success recently in his efforts to help people find safe places to stay. 

 

“Sometimes I hear stories from the people I am trying to help. They tell me about folks they are worried about and help me make connections,” Carlos tells me. “Sometimes, I find out about homeless people at the mental health clinic where I work during the day. Recently, I heard about a grandmother who was living in a car with her daughter and the daughter’s baby in the parking lot of a supermarket, and I went out to locate them.” Carlos found them, and after hearing their story, he was determined to get them to safe shelter. “They were living with a family member who moved to a new apartment, and there was no way that they could go along. They were sleeping in their car and going to other relatives and friends to shower and rest during the day.” The grandmother ended up having a breakdown and was receiving mental health treatment, but she had no stable place for her family to stay, and that made everything worse. Carlos was able to take the family to Crossroads, and now the situation is improving quickly. Mom, daughter and the grandbaby are living in an emergency apartment for now, and working with their case advocate and the rapid re-housing staff to rebuild their finances, apply for assistance and find stable housing.

“I met another woman who was living in an abandoned camper in the parking lot of a former factory.  She was surviving in the unheated camper with no electricity or water. The property manager had allowed her to stay there for more than a year, but when the property was being sold, he told her that she would have to leave. The woman was a survivor of a brutal rape and suffered from extreme trauma. “It took quite a while to gain her trust,” Carlos says, “I would bring her food and other things to help her out. Finally, she agreed to come to Crossroads, just to take showers and wash her clothes. Gradually, she began to feel comfortable with me, and when the day arrived that she had to vacate the camper, she agreed to come to Crossroads for shelter and to work with a case advocate. “She is in a safe place now, and working with her case advocates to find housing and services she needs.”

“I was talking with some people, and they told me about a woman who was sleeping in a park at night, and I went out to find her,” Carlos says. He discovered Molly, a woman in her 30’s with a history of mental illness, who had spent a life filled with abuse and had been trafficked by family members for sex since she was a small child. She had moved to Woonsocket with one of her sisters after narrowly escaping a drive-by shooting in the city where she grew up. Molly’s sister left her in Woonsocket, and Molly wanted to stay their mother, who was living in a high rise. The mother could not have anyone else living in the apartment, so Molly was hiding in her mother’s house during the day and sleeping in the park at night. Finally, Molly suffered a mental health crisis and was sent to a mental health center for treatment, and it was there that Carlos learned about her predicament. “ I knew she had no permanent residence, so I tried hard to reach out to her and gain her trust, and finally I was able to bring her to Crossroads,” Carlos says. “She is getting the help she needs now, including mental health services, health care, some cash assistance, and she is well on her way to getting supportive housing. If I hadn’t been able to find her and bring her to Crossroads, I don’t know what would have happened to her.”

There are more stories, and lots of people still struggling to survive in hidden places in the city. Carlos doesn’t give up on a single person, and every night that he can, he gets in the Crossroads van and goes where most people wouldn’t dare tread. His dedication and caring continue to save the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. We are very grateful to Carlos for his work.



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