Community Commitment: Project Homeless Connect

More than 275 men and women experiencing homelessness received critical services and care at United Way NCA’s inaugural Project Homeless Connect event on Friday, October 9, 2015.

Held at Central Union Mission, the resource fair brought together nonprofit organizations and local service providers from across the city. Each participant was paired with a volunteer guide who helped him or her navigate the services that would be the most immediately impactful.

Having a guide meant participants did not have to walk alone, and for some that was the best part of the day.

A mother with three young children found a new sense of hope. She had recently received an eviction notice after being laid off, and felt tremendous frustration with trying to resolve her family’s immediate needs. Friendship Place did housing and employment assessments, connected her to resources and helped her create a plan.

“She was so overwhelmed she started crying,” says Jermaine Hampton of Friendship Place. “She had been calling around to many places for weeks. She didn’t even know that all of these resources were available.”

Project Homeless Connect provided free medical, podiatry, housing services, identification, employment and other services, all under one roof. The free haircuts by American Beauty Academy were one of the most popular services of the day.

One participant, who took advantage of the podiatry services offered by Dr. Howard Osterman and his team from the Foot and Ankle Clinic of the Mid-Atlantic, said that he had tried unsuccessfully to receive similar care in the past. “I kept getting turned away,” he said.  Another participant with a potentially life-threatening podiatry issue received emergency care.

In total, four participants with critical medical issues were transported to the hospital for further intensive care. We may have saved a life on Friday.

“I saw many people helped that day. I saw a man shouting, ‘I’m negative!’ because he’d gotten a good [HIV status] report from Whitman Walker.  I saw a woman get taken to the hospital after she was diagnosed with an illness that required immediate treatment. I heard one woman rejoice about the new apartment she’d get in a few days,” says Min. Deborah Chambers of Central Union Mission.

We offered hundreds of helping hands, gave plenty of encouragement and achieved tangible results. Participants got IDs, check-ups, HIV screenings. They were entered into the city’s housing database to learn about available housing opportunities, and much more. We couldn’t have done any of it without our more than 150 volunteers; 15 service providers; and Project Homeless Connect sponsors, Comcast and Deloitte.

We would also like to thank our Project Homeless Connect Planning Committee for their hard work in creating a welcoming environment for our neighbors-in-need. Thank you to Central Union MissionFriendship PlaceSo Others Might EatPeople for Fairness CoalitionDepartment of Human Services and Salvation Army.

For United Way NCA, this is just the first Project Homeless Connect event. For some of our participants, this is just the first step in a new direction.

Check out the Project Homeless Connect photo album on Facebook and read what participants said about the day.