Project Homeless Connect brings together a comprehensive array of services for the homeless at one convenient location. Homeless people, and those at risk of becoming homeless, will be able to receive much-needed help with things like: housing and job applications; official State I. D.s required for employment; medical, dental, eye, and foot care; haircuts; clothing; and more.
According to the March 2009 issue of the Homeless Commission’s newsletter, during its previous Project Homeless Connect 1,078 participants received over 5,500 services. Twenty-nine chronically homeless people began the process of obtaining housing, with a total of 68 housing units being pledged for homeless people by area service providers. A total of 110 people began the screening process for housing, and 300 people applied for federally subsidized Section 8 housing.
Additionally, more than 600 people received medical treatment, 160 received dental screenings, 217 received eye exams, and 350 people received haircuts. Also provided were AIDS/HIV screenings, breast exams, hearing tests, and information on health insurance. Legal services were also available, and Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton kept the General Sessions Court open that day to hear any cases referred through the event.
Project Homeless Connect began in San Francisco five years ago, in response to the growing homeless population there. Since then, The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has determined Project Homeless Connect to be a “Best Practice” in helping to end homelessness. With the help of the USICH over 220 communities have held Project Homeless Connect events. The USICH web page provides information on how to organize a Project Homeless Connect event, and gives information about upcoming events in other communities.
I did participate in Nashville’s Project Homeless Connect last year, although I had not planned on attending. I had met up with other homeless people on the street when a church van pulled up. The driver got out and asked us if we would like a ride to the event. A team of several people were canvassing the greater Nashville area, offering free rides to anyone who wanted to go. At his prompting I decided to check it out. The atmosphere was festive. Live music was playing. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Although I had arrived late in the day, the volunteers working the event greeted me warmly, escorted me though the initial process, and helped me find the people I needed to see. Of all that happened that day, the most memorable thing for me was in receiving a new pair of shoes. My old pair had become rather tattered from the many miles I had put on Nashville’s city streets. I still have those shoes. And now that I have a home, I should be able to keep them for quite a while still.