The traditional method used by social workers to help the homeless is a conveyor belt model, which moves people methodically from street, to shelter, to permanent housing. Few service providers ever questioned this basic model. Yet any experienced social worker would also concede a so-called service-resistant population: homeless individuals who refuse shelters. Faced with this reality, in 2001 a nonprofit organization called Common Ground (now known as Breaking Ground) conducted an experiment: a winter count of the homeless individuals in New York City’s Times Square. The Common Ground team went out to the field. They suspended judgment, postponed analysis, and drew conclusions based solely on up-close observations and careful listening.
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