A Profile: Mike O'Neill, Outreach Clinician

In February 1986, Pine Street Inn established the street outreach program, which has run every day and night since. In the past year, the outreach program placed 150 individuals directly from the streets into housing.

Mike O'Neill has been a member of the daytime outreach team since 2018

Mike connects with men and women who choose to stay outside. Since December alone, he has helped 12 people into homes.

“Some people have lost their faith or had bad experiences and it can be hard at first to develop rapport and trust. But, we continue to follow up and we don't give up. People sometimes think that we're just giving out socks and food, but there is so much more to it. We are supporting individuals, getting them connected to medical care, vital documents, getting people reunited with family or friends, and working towards housing.

Recently, I was working with a woman who’s been through so much trauma and loss.

We worked together for over six months, and I helped her move into housing in December. She told me afterwards, 'You kept coming out and you kept saying that this could happen and I didn't believe you at first and now I am here. I got my keys and I can rebuild my life.'

When we help people move into housing, we don’t just leave - we do a warm handoff.

We see them several times and connect each one to a housing case manager so that when they need assistance, they are connected. My favorite moment is when I give a client keys to their own apartment. All the ups and downs that we go through together are worth it to no longer have to see that individual in that doorway, in that park, on that bench. When you have seen someone at their lowest point, sleeping outside, soaked from the rain, it's so great to watch when they turn the key to open the door to their place. You can see something different in their eye - a spark. There is hope.

That’s why I wake up every day and do this - I don't want to lose anyone on the streets.

I’ve lost people on the street but I wake up every day excited to come in because it’s another day that we’re getting a step closer to helping someone move off the streets and connected to family or support services.

Somedays it's hard, but I give everything I have to show those on the streets that they are not alone. 

We care and we will keep working with clients on their bad days, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we help them get there."