Monday, March 29, 2010

Project Homeless Connect

Today I was able to spend the day volunteering! Project Homeless Connect is an event that I have been wanting to give my time to for about 2 years. There are over 400 Project Homeless Connect's in the US, with the Minneapolis one topping out in 2009 as the most successful!

The idea is to take all of the services and needs that people facing homelessness have and bring them to the person, all in one central place. It's a big challenge for those facing homelessness to go from one service to the next, often across town, without appointments, sometimes without the right paper work etc. It can be discouraging and a big roadblock in meeting their needs. Minneapolis Homeless Connect turns 160,000 sq. feet of the convention center into a one-stop shop for all these services to help those living with homelessness or facing it in the near future.

This is a GREAT video outlining PHC. 
The first 10 min are really clear about what goes on at the Connect event!

Today, I spent the day with my clients, taking them from service to service, making sure their needs were met or at least they started down the right path. After orientation and touring the layout of services, the volunteers sat waiting in a huge convention hall for the clients with our hands raised to let them know we are ready to help!  

 volunteers waiting for the doors to open and the clients to come in! 

It was a really wonderful experience, especially for where I am right now in my life. For starters, I am on a new and uncertain path. I have hope and I have more than enough options for success. To be able to spend sometime with someone and help them find that same hope and start on their new paths was very rewarding. I am not helping people in a gym yet, but was still helping people better their lives.

here I am waiting for someone to pick me so I can help them navigate the services! 
Pick me! Pick me! 

 Secondly, since I am in a bit of a waiting period right now, it gets me outside of myself!  Today, I was able to turn my focus entirely onto someone else and serve them. I actually worked with 4 different people, all who had different needs and all who found some answers or at least got more options in their hands to help them get where they want to be in life. I connected with a few on a personal level as well and was able to encourage them ( I think)!

Some people are starting from square one and have a lot of needs when they come to PHC, while some people are only in need of one or two services. Project Homeless Connect offers: 

State ID/ birth certificate services
Dental Services
Transitional housing / permanent housing / foreclosure help
Eye care
Resume writing services
Job training programs
Employment services
Educational services and 
A hot lunch for all clients ! 
At their 2009 event, there were about 1400 clients served, of which: 400 received housing help, 200 received eye glasses and 305 received on site dental care.  These services are basic needs for everyone and this fits with PHC mission to move from managing homelessness to ending it by getting to the core issues and needs of those facing it. 

Housing services was very busy today

Dental care is one of the most needed services and there were MANY of these mobile dental units offering cleanings and exams onsite! 


Clients were also able to speak with volunteers from the Minnesota historical society to tell their story of who they are and how they became homeless. It is a way to not only capture their history, but also provide insight into causes of homelessness. After, they could get their portrait taken with their friends, family or child and take a copy of the photo with them. 

I was SO happy to see that PHC offered holistic care for the clients as well in the form of Chiropractic and Acupuncture. I hope many took advantage!

This was SUCH a wonderful event to take part in and wonderful way to give back, especially since I have been given so much. In all my years of living in the city, living paycheck to paycheck and even being without work, I have been blessed to always have a place to live and food on my table (even if it was pb&j!) I am blessed beyond anything that I am in a position to be able to give back and to give my time. 

Do you guys volunteer your time? What are YOU thankful for today? 


Megan said...

What a great event! I'm so glad you were able to participate. I really enjoyed hearing about it, and how they are offering some of the things that we may take for granted, like haircuts and family photos. I'll have to look it up to see if we have one in our city.

I do volunteer with youth sports through the YMCA, and I love seeing the kids develop skills and also feel included in the team. My best time was my first 3-4 yr old basketball season when we had a boy w/ Down Syndrome. I think all the kids had a good experience learning how to work together and how to work with people of varying abilities.

This is a long comment, I know, but I also wanted to answer that I am thankful to have a good job. We have an unpaid furlough day this week as part of budget reductions, but I still have a job, and I'm happy about that.

Fab Kate said...

I can't tell you how much programs like this are appreciated. eye and dental care are generally forgotten among homeless services. Having a central location like this is very helpful (assuming it wasn't in the burbs, and was bus accessible, and well advertised!)

I've been homeless. My son has been repeatedly homeless. Accessing services is always a nightmare.

Do I volunteer my time? You bet I do. I've volunteered at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and I donate my used clothing (and the kid's used clothing) to groups that support those efforts.

Right at the time, most of my volunteer efforts go into environmental conservation: riparian ecosystem projects, trail clean up, and zoo education programing.

Honestly, everyone, no matter what their financial situation, emotional situation, or state of health is capable of giving back in some way. If we stop looking for reasons/ excuses not to give back and built a community of compassion and volunteerism, we'll go a long way towards solving the ills of the world.

teacherwoman said...

Sounds like a great thing to volunteer for. I need to do more volunteering myself. It feels so good to help others!

bethtrue said...

Mary - you are awesome to volunteer to assist with this. Sounds like a wonderful program!
Thank you for telling us all about it.

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

you are so amazing! i always think about volunteering and to be honest I just never do. I donate to charities all the time, but don't give of myself like I should

cstironkat said...

Way to go Mary, what a wonderful idea this was for those who need these services.

I volunteer each year with the partner campaign at our local YMCA. It ended last week and we made our goal.
I also volunteer at college with the college's volunteer club. We clean up the enviroment, hold food and personal care drives, work with Santa's Helper's at Christmas and work with the other clubs during earth day.
I also volunteer with a local dog rescue group too.
Have a great week and Happy Easter.

Julie said...

Hi Mary,
God bless you for volunteering for something like this!! Homelessness is a real problem and people do need help! It is this type of story/issue that always tugs on my heart strings:) What a selfless thing to do! You are a beautiful human being Mary and I respect what you are doing:)

Mary said...

This was such a unique event too, because we spent quite a bit of time with one person or a family/couple. You got to talk to them one on one for a while and really help them get what they need, or try.

I also really liked that with this event there was NO stipulation to the client coming in, they just had to be in need. For instance, they didn't have to be sober to be there. It reminded me of gospel and of God taking us as we are--there is no point in trying to get fixed before we go to the one stop shop to help us with our faith and lives, he loves us just like we are and wants us to just come anyway! It was super cool to see the similarity!

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