Bright Spot: West Virginia Balance of State | Comprehensive Outreach Coverage in Large Rural Areas

September 18, 2019

In rural communities, secure agreement for non-homelessness-specific partners to make referrals to dedicated outreach staff or access points; make sure to maintain face-to-face contact for the client throughout the process

Check out this bright spot if…

  • Your community contains a vast spread of land with sparse agency coverage
  • Your community’s population is scattered across a large area
  • You want to try it!


The West Virginia Balance of State CoC has strong outreach coverage of a large rural area with only two staff. Therefore, they had to take advantage of opportunities to adequately allocate resources. When PATH was infused with more money, Zach’s team agreed to apply for it. They decided to be strategic in how they used the funds, so the outreach team needed to be housing focused. Their approach needed to be accompanied by a subsidy, which allowed the team to ensure that anyone found would have housing as a result.

Zach learned from Ian DeJong’s suggestion, and he decided to do a targeted investigation, sending an outreach person to meet people across the CoC. They spoke with mailmen, beauty parlor employees, police officers, and convenience store owners. They started finding people in places where, previously, the assumption was made that there were no homeless people. As a result, the Coalition to End Homelessness now had a face, a name, and a presence in each of the places. Additionally, because of these connections made, when individuals were housed, they were already ingrained in the community.

The community measured success by how many people get into housing, how long it takes them to get into housing, and how long they stay in housing. They’ve seen an uptick in the first and third numbers and a significant decrease in the second.

Key Action: Demonstrating Proof of Concept

With few staff, two in the North Central part of West Virginia, and two in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, a complementary program of street outreach and truly rapid re-housing erupted to attack rural and urban issues of homelessness by being and remaining housing-focused. Because of this capability, when they started doing outreach and RRH, they had the opportunity to show local leadership that they could get the work done. Consequently, other providers were more willing to participate in the cause.

Key Action: Focusing on Community Strengths

A committed person can get the job done. Once recruited individuals are engaged and passionate, they can focus on their “why” for acting. This allows the team to not get caught up in perfection, and instead, they are consumed by their dedication to the goal. They will constantly work towards betterment instead of perfection. 

Want More information?

Contact Zach Brown (