From the Frontlines: John, Outreach Team

From the Frontlines: John, Outreach Team

John Ryan works on Pine Street Inn’s daytime street outreach team, checking in on the men and women who stay on the streets. He builds trust with each one, connecting them with services, and ultimately, housing. 

Then COVID-19 struck.

The overnight street outreach van sent out a call for help so John worked day and night on the Street Outreach team. Then the Suffolk University dorm opened to accommodate elderly, frail guests who need social distancing. John is now balancing his regular job on the Outreach team with a second shift as a supervisor at the dorm. On a typical day, he works 16 hours.

There's a lot of anxiety to address in his work with individuals experiencing homelessness.


People on the streets have a lot of apprehension. “Moments matter. There’s a lot of concerns about how to get testing, a lot of fear of going into the shelter. They’re glad we are here to provide information, food, basic necessities and resources. The other day, we did four telehealth calls in the field using my phone and videoconferencing in with a medical provider. That really touched me, to be able to do this. “

At the dorm for homeless, older and medically frail, one of John’s responsibilities is calling the COVID-19 hotline when a guest exhibits symptoms. “This has made the situation very real,” John says. “If a guest needs to go to the ER, there are a lot of concerns about ‘Will my bed still be here for me?' This has really stood out for me.”

“There was a need and I said I’m all in,” John says.

“There’s definitely been a fear of bringing something home, but now I'm staying in the BU dorms [opened for Pine Street staff]. He adds, “I got into this field to give back. If not us, who? Our ID says ‘Emergency Services’."