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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Center for Community Engagement


Formal and Informal Homelessness Outreach in Koreatown, Los Angeles: A Qualitative Analysis


As the rate of homelessness increases across urban centers in America, vast amounts of unhoused people are being criminalized and being subjected to forced displacement by state authorities. Most of the existing literature written on homelessness services focus on formalservices that take place in an office setting rather than on-the-ground outreach. These present insightful learnings, but they do not provide a clear understanding of the process of outreach nor unhoused individuals’ experiences. To address this gap, we conducted a qualitative analysis,collecting narratives about unhoused individuals’ lived experiences with formal and informal systems of outreach in Koreatown, Los Angeles. We sought to understand what forms of outreach made unhoused individuals feel supported. We conducted semi-structured conversational interviews with volunteers and engaged in participatory ethnography duringweekly outreach. We inquired about unhoused peoples’ experiences with formal and informaloutreach to understand how these systems differ, what potential improvements can be made, and which initiatives have been successful. We found that unhoused individuals were able to formmore trusting relationships with volunteers than with case-workers due to consistency,expectation management skills, and respect towards unhoused people. Given our findings, future recommendations include partnerships between the formal and informal sectors, further fundingfor formal outreach, and adhering to existing recommendations regarding formal outreach reform.

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