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? 

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