Caring Connections Shows Results

On any given day, nearly 100 people are living on the streets of downtown Columbus. While many of these individuals disappear during the day, some do remain on the streets and panhandle. The number of people panhandling, struggling with addiction, and/or experiencing severe mental health crises is increasing downtown.

Downtown residents and employees often ask what they can do to help these individuals. Capital Crossroads and Discovery Special Improvement Districts developed the Caring Connections Campaign to empower downtown employees and residents with printed materials to offer important resources to people experiencing homelessness.

A positive approach

"The best thing someone can do when they see someone who appears to be in need downtown is to contact our office at 614-228-5718," said Lisa Defendiefer, deputy director of operations & advocacy for Capital Crossroads and Discovery SIDs.

"We can immediately send someone to engage the individual, assess the situation, and offer outreach services. The SIDs have free print materials that list the resources available downtown for residents and employees to share with anyone needing assistance."

Meet Our Outreach Team

While all downtown ambassadors are trained to work with people who need help, the SIDs employs two full-time outreach specialists to help people experiencing homelessness downtown.

Bill Cobun has been with the SIDs since 2011. He started as a safety ambassador, patrolling the streets of downtown and training in self-defense, police mountain biking, and as a Certified Tourism Ambassador. His background includes working as a musician, a computer programmer, a computer repair technician in the Army National Guard, and a grocery store manager. Understandably, this allows him to relate to people from all walks of life.

Ryan Jefferson joined the outreach team in 2018 after being a safety ambassador since 2015. He is the only person to be named ambassador of the year three years in a row from 2015-2017. Ryan enjoys being able to do more to help people beyond the street-level assistance he provided as an ambassador.   You can find him coaching Little League basketball and football in his free time. 

How we help 

Our team connects people to a variety of services:

  • find temporary or permanent supportive housing.
  • help clients with criminal records find work.
  • connect clients with physical or mental disabilities with services.
  • link veterans to eligible services.
  • help clients get copies of birth certificates or driver’s licenses. 
  • pay application fees, transportation, access to the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, utility assistance, and small household items.
  • works with a new Mobile Crisis Response Unit along with the Columbus Police Department and Netcare. This unit is sent to help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Our results 

Each year, Bill and Ryan provide more than 3,680 hours of homeless outreach. This includes:

  • Serving over 1,000 clients at the Open Shelter and Main Library.
  • Assisting 84 clients find permanent housing, 43 clients find emergency shelter, and 55 clients secure identification documents.
  • Providing over 500 COTA bus passes to help clients get to appointments, job interviews, and housing.
History of the program 

Capital Crossroads SID members first began funding outreach services in 2003. At first, they shared costs with The Columbus Foundation. After two years, they began to fully fund the program. Similarly, Discovery SID understood the value of outreach. They included it in the SID's initial program for service in 2006.  Together, the two SIDs fund two full-time outreach specialists who serve clients downtown at an annual cost of over $150,000.


The SIDs offer free print resources for our Caring Connections Campaign including posters, flyers, postcards, and cards that list social service resources available downtown every day. Please contact us at (614) 228-5718 if you would like a supply delivered to you.