Two substance use counselors from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services are part of the Project 50 team that provides permanent housing and other services to the most vulnerable homeless people in downtown Los Angeles.
Started as a pilot project in 2007, the county-funded program initially aimed to identify and find the 50 homeless people most likely to die on the streets and get them into safe housing where they could receive easy access to medical and psychiatric care, as well as other social services. The program has since expanded to include 75 residents, about half of whom receive substance use counseling from Didi Hirsch counselors.
The counselors use motivational interviewing techniques, an evidence-based counseling model that involves collaboration and empathic conversation to help clients overcome ambivalence and strengthen their motivation for change.
The counselors run a weekly women’s group and a yoga group in addition to the individual counseling, which usually takes place in the local park, on the sunroof of the apartment complex or in the apartments themselves.