A Day in the Life of Chandler’s Community Outreach Navigator

Nov. 22, 2019
| by:
Communications and Public Affairs

Homelessness is a complex issue often requiring a wide range of supportive services to help those living on the street within our community. Too often, homelessness is about much more than being without a home.

To help get to the root of the issue, Chandler provides a service through Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI) to bring experienced, compassionate professionals, known as “navigators,” to the front lines of homeless outreach.

Community outreach navigators’ primary role is to meet people experiencing homelessness wherever they may be. They act as a bridge for individuals, coordinating their access to programs and services that offer the help they need most.

A Day Helping People Experiencing Homelessness

Misty Gustafson, CBI Chandler’s Community Outreach Navigator
Misty Gustafson, CBI Chandler’s Community Outreach Navigator

Misty Gustafson works for CBI as Chandler’s Community Outreach Navigator. Every day on the job, Misty is out with individuals helping to get them off the street.

“Each case is different,” Misty said. Sometimes people seek out help from CBI navigators, and sometimes the cases are referred to them. As part of her job, she needs to understand a variety of resources available to best work with each case.

“On any given day, I could be helping people look for a job, get a license, get their birth certificate, coordinate transportation, get connected to mental health services or medical treatment, and so on,” Misty said.

Misty works for CBI, an organization contracted to provide services by the City of Chandler. It is a network of treatment facilities, outreach workers, clinics, case management and more.

“CBI is a great resource,” she said. “It is a one-stop shop to get people in to see nurses, get checkups or get into counseling or treatment for people who struggle with addiction or who are severely mentally ill.”

Helping people experiencing homelessness at the most vulnerable points in their lives is no easy task — which makes it even more important for navigators like Misty to understand the struggles people are going through.

“I am a recovering heroin addict. I’ve been to jail and I’ve been to prison. I’ve experienced homelessness, too,” Misty said. “I understand what it’s like. Working for CBI, I get to work to give back and help other people get through it. I would like to think that my story brings hope to people who are struggling with the same things I did during my addiction.”

Her passion for the job comes from her own difficult past experiences and honest understanding of what it takes to recover. The success she sees from her work inspires her to keep going.

“We see lots of huge changes in people,” Misty said. “We’re here and we’re all willing to help. We don’t treat it like it's our job. I want people to know that we want to help and they are always welcome.”

ChangeUp: Combating Homelessness in Chandler

Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week (Nov. 16-24) gives us a reason to pay special attention to the people experiencing homelessness in our community, but the reality is that homelessness is a constant struggle facing thousands of people in Maricopa County.

Currently, our region’s needs are outpacing our ability to provide affordable housing, emergency shelter resources and supportive services, contributing to the number of people experiencing homelessness. Factors leading to homelessness include:

  • Increased cost of living, particularly housing costs, across the region
  • Underfunded behavioral and mental health treatment service systems
  • Loss of income
  • Prior criminal justice involvement, impacting the ability to access housing and employment
  • Negative impacts on youth involved in the child welfare system
  • Education and employment gaps making housing unattainable and unaffordable

City of Chandler, in partnership with the nonprofit For Our City – Chandler, launched ChangeUp, a text-to-donate and awareness campaign that educates residents on the benefits of donating directly to local charities who work to end homelessness, like CBI and navigators like Misty.

To make a on-time or recurring donation, text “ChangeUp” to 44-321 to donate $1, $5, $10, $25, or any amount. All proceeds collected through the ChangeUp initiative will go directly to programs and services provided by nonprofits to help end homelessness.

To donate directly online, visit ChangeUp.