Jansen Howard understands homelessness and addiction firsthand. After breaking free of alcoholism and four years of her own homelessness, Jansen now works with the Street Outreach Program of Homeward Pikes Peak and the Colorado Springs Police Department Homeless Outreach Team to help homeless individuals access healthcare and housing.
To deal with the likes of frostbite in the winter, spider bites during summer, severe mental illness or convincing someone to take a Hepatitis A vaccine, Howard spends hours with clients in hospital waiting rooms or on the phone with Medicaid to advocate for their proper medications and care.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is to have a global approach to each person,” she says. “I see being out there in the streets, all day every day, as a way to really guide someone and see them all the way through, rather than playing just one little piece—because they need someone to carry them all the way through without getting lost, literally and figuratively.”
In the last year, Howard has cared for nearly 300 clients, and currently focuses on 15. She recently was honored with a Commander’s Commendation by the CSPD for her work in building rapport and helping a particular long-term homeless woman accept a move to a skilled nursing home.
Jansen Howard is currently pursuing a master’s degree in art therapy and plans to implement drawing and sculpting sessions for the homeless at Greenway Flats, Homeward Pikes Peak and Penrose Library. She says the sessions will focus on the role of art and identity. “Art isn’t all about aesthetic value, or being an artist. It goes much deeper,” she says. “Even studio cleanup can be therapeutic because it’s contributing to a community.”
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