|Project Homeless Connect celebration set|
|Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor|
|Saturday, 11 January 2014 09:15|
A celebration of the success of Wood County's first Project Homeless Connect event is slated for next week in Bowling Green.
Anyone who was a service provider, volunteer, or guest at the inaugural PHC day, held Oct. 16, is invited to attend one of two celebration events, both to be held at First United Methodist Church, 1506 E. Wooster St.
The first celebration will be held Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. The second will be Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Both are being hosted by the Continuum of Care Coalition Wood County, now the official name for the group formerly called the Home Aid Coalition.
The first hour in each celebration Tuesday will be a celebration and social time. The second hour will involve training for the upcoming 2014 Point-In-Time Count on Jan. 28.
HUD requires that Continuums of Care conduct an annual count of homeless persons who are sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing, and safe havens on a single night called the Point-In-Time Count. It is a count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on that one night.
Project Homeless Connect, which serves a local population at risk for homelessness, will take place again in 2014.
The 2013 PHC day, held at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, saw services provided to some 250 adults and children. That total exceeded the goal of serving 100 to 200 individuals and families at risk, low-income, and homeless or nearing homelessness.
Nearly 70 percent of guests were females. The average age of heads of households was 41.
Homelessness status was tallied. Of the total, 25 percent were deemed at risk of becoming homeless, 23 were first-time homeless, 4 percent were homeless several times for less than one year, and 4 percent were long-term homeless.
Those seeking help on PHC day listed these top three reasons as having an effect on keeping their housing: financial obligations, physical disability, and mental illness.
Of the total, 36 percent were also without reliable transportation.
There were 41 service providers on hand, offering such free services as hot meals, clothing, haircuts, medical or dental care, mental health or substance abuse services, IDs, housing, legal information, and employment services.
The experience of one of those 41 service providers, the Salvation Army's Bowling Green Service Center, was typical.
On Oct. 16 alone, "The Salvation Army registered 47 families for Christmas and Thanksgiving assistance, and made follow-up appointments for 13 families to assist with utility and rent issues," noted Tracy Knappins.
In addition, eight families received vouchers for food assistance through the BG Christian Food Pantry, SA provided two families with emergency housing, one family a gasoline voucher, and provided countless families with information and referral.
"One gentleman in particular stood out. He is a single father of two teen age girls, who lost his job and then his home. He has been staying wherever he can, and his daughters are living with family. I could tell by the look on his face that he was extremely saddened by this," Knappins said.
She referred the man to Job and Family Services (JFS) "to see about their rent program, and told him to come back and see me if I needed to put him in emergency housing to verify his homelessness. A short while later he came back beaming because JFS was going to be able to help him, so I was able to place him in emergency housing.
"This type of partnership happens everyday between The Salvation Army and JFS, but what a blessing it is to see it happen right before your eyes. Project Homeless Connect has helped me to be able to meet other providers face to face and help us all to coordinate our services better."
Reasons why people said they attended PHC:
• 53 percent needed clothes, especially coats;
• 34 percent sought housing or rent assistance;
• 23 percent for a hot meal;
• 21 percent for job help;
• 21 percent for dental care;
• 18 percent for a haircut.
People were also asked what they would like to see at future Project Homeless Connect events. Among items mentioned were gas and gift cards, information on rent aid, help with pets, and educational materials on how health insurance works.
Other services of interest to guests include showers, smoking cessation, tax help, nutrition information, home repair and maintenance, car repair, Social Security and disability services.
The plan was to recruit 200 volunteers. In the end, 265 signed on.
One volunteer commented, "There isn't a 'type' of homeless person; and it doesn't matter. All people deserve access to services."
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