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Project Homeless Connect draws hundreds in need of assistance

Posted: January 28, 2013 - 9:31pm  |  Updated: January 29, 2013 - 12:09am
Chris Anderson receives a free haircut by hairstylist Norene Nelson during the 4th Annual Juneau Project Homeless Connect at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Monday. Over 50 agencies, providers, and businesses participate in Project Homeless Connect. The free event is sponsored by the Juneau Homeless Coalition and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Chris Anderson receives a free haircut by hairstylist Norene Nelson during the 4th Annual Juneau Project Homeless Connect at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Monday. Over 50 agencies, providers, and businesses participate in Project Homeless Connect. The free event is sponsored by the Juneau Homeless Coalition and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

Folks lined up early at the doors of Centennial Hall Monday morning waiting for the start of the fourth annual Project Homeless Connect. It was nine degrees Fahrenheit outside.

“There was a big rush right in the beginning,” Gus Marx grant coordinator for Juneau Youth Services said. “I have a feeling people were cold. They came in and stayed.”

Project Homeless Connect is an annual one-day event hosted by the Juneau Homeless Coalition that offers services to homeless individuals, families and the elderly. Services range from receiving birth certificates and signing up for the permanent fund to housing, hair cuts and massages.

Marx said he was approached mostly with requests for housing. However he said he was unable to help many people as they didn’t match the under-22 age demographic of his organization.

Over the last four years, service providers have adapted to the needs of Juneau’s homeless, Marx said.

“We’ve learned to match what people want,” Marx said. Instead of trying to only find employment and housing service providers focus on hair cuts and foot massages, he said. “They want a good lunch.”

Saint Vincent de Paul handed out over one hundred Fred Meyer gift cards and 50 gift cards to its own thrift store. The social services provider also handed out around 60 housing applications.

“We are not limited to housing,” a Saint Vincent de Paul volunteer said. “We get money from the thrift store so we can use it for other things, like bus passes.”

Tamee Martini, Saint Vincent de Paul’s housing manager, said the event lasted only one day but the effect lasts. She said she may pass out 60 housing applications at the event and 20 come back later. She said she is also able to pass on information about services that someone might need later.

The entire event drew a little more than 200 people, up from 187 in 2012. The Homeless Coalition also receives assistance from the Juneau Economic Development Corporation to run the event.

Jesse Post, Juneau Homeless Coalition coordinator, said the event also has positive effects for all of Juneau. In 2012 the permanent fund booth signed up 83 people for the dividend.

“That is $83,000 into the Alaska economy,” Post said.

The one-day event helps homeless individuals and families now, not in a month or six weeks, Post said. It also allows people to find many of Juneau’s social services under one roof, she said.

For more information visit www.jedc.org/juneau-homeless-coalition.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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