“How many lives have you changed since you started?”
InnVision Shelter Network Outreach Services Manager Connie Leyva asked the question of Jerome Olimpiada, who began work for the homeless outreach organization last week.
“One for sure,” Olimpiada responded.
As the main case manager for InnVision Shelter Network’s new Coastside homeless outreach team, Olimpiada’s objective is to change lives by helping unsheltered homeless people get the resources they need, whether it be food, shelter, medicine or all of the above.
Olimpiada was hired after more than three years in law enforcement. He served as an officer with the Burlingame and Novato police departments.
“The key is the right person,” said InnVision Housing Services Associate Director Bob Hutchinson. “You’ve got to be able to talk to people. Jerome has that and other case managers have that.”
In September, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved the allocation of $300,000 in Measure A funds for the expansion of homeless outreach teams in the county. At the last homeless census in January 2013, 1,300 unsheltered homeless people were counted, which included 112 on the Coastside.
Olimpiada will have an office at Coastside Hope, but much of his time will be spent on the ground, holding scheduled meetings with clients and stopping by encampments to talk to homeless individuals. Olimpiada will also respond to calls from storeowners if they notice a homeless individual nearby.
“We’re trying to free up the police from going on nuisance calls,” Hutchinson said.
When visiting encampments, Olimpiada will operate using the “buddy system” utilized by other case managers. He will arrange for another InnVision Shelter Network employee, such as Hutchinson or Leyva, to meet with him and go with him. If the homeless people do not wish to talk to Olimpiada or his partner, they will leave and come back another time. If they do want to talk, the homeless outreach team will ask if they are in need of any services and attempt to convince them to get off the street and into a shelter.
“When the window opens and they’re willing to get off the street, there is a small window of opportunity and the next thing is how we’re going to do that,” Hutchinson said.
As a Novato police officer, Olimpiada communicated with homeless individuals when patrolling the streets as a Section 8 liaison. He believes his previous experience in working with law enforcement will benefit him in his new job.
“My main focus was still working in a career where I can help people,” Olimpiada said. “It’s very rewarding, and it was the same thing in law enforcement.”
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office compiled a list of about a dozen chronically homeless individuals that InnVision Shelter Network will reference. New names will be added to the list as people seek housing, with the goal of getting a minimum of 25 percent of the people on the original list into permanent housing the first year of the homeless outreach team’s existence and 50 percent or more every year after.
Olimpiada said that in his first full week talking to the homeless on the Coastside, he has developed a rapport with four of five people and is looking forward to that number growing.
“My main goal is to help every client we have, and that’s what I’m looking for out of this.”