Following its highly successful introduction in Juneau last year, Project Homeless Connect is returning to Centennial Hall once again on Jan. 24.
Patterned after a replicable innovation pioneered in San Francisco and subsequently developed into a model for national implementation by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Project Homeless Connect fuses political and civic will in a one-day, one-stop array of resources to provide the hospitality and the support to create a trajectory out of homelessness.
According to the ICH website, the national model consists of “equal parts welcoming homeless neighbors into the life of the community, changing the way resources are accessed, and achieving quantifiable results for people experiencing homelessness.”
Project Homeless Connect is sponsored locally by the Juneau Homeless Coalition, and is coordinated by Scott Ciambor, who administers the City and Borough of Juneau’s Affordable Housing initiatives through his office at the Juneau Economic Development Council.
Ciambor said this year’s Project Homeless Connect is well organized and offers a greater number of services and service providers. Bartlett Hospital and the Juneau Police Department will participate this year, along with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation/Employment Services, Alaska Legal Services, University of Alaska, Juneau Youth Services, SAIL, Rainforest Recovery, SEARHC/Front Street Clinic (for medical and dental screening, H1N1), Juneau Public Health (H1N1, Hepatitis B shots), National Alliance for Mental Illness, JAMHI, the Learning Center, Tlingit & Haida Veterans, Food Bank, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Public Assistance, the Glory Hole, St. Vincent de Paul, the Juneau School District and many local churches.
The Point-in-Time Count is a single-day survey of unsheltered and sheltered people experiencing homelessness. This annual, nationwide count occurs in January and is conducted in Alaska by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The survey tries to capture information on who is currently experiencing homelessness, including families, individuals, and unaccompanied youth.
Of the 177 residents who received on-site services and were counted during last year’s Project Homeless Connect, 30 were homeless veterans.
Perhaps because homelessness issues show up more often in news from Anchorage than here in Juneau, Ciambor feels there is a perception that Juneau doesn’t have a significant homelessness problem. In fact, last year’s first-ever Project Homeless Connect event in Juneau resulted in a greater per-capita homeless count than the event held in Anchorage.
“Among other things,” Ciambor said, “this tells us that combining the Point-in-Time Count survey with Project Homeless Connect was a successful strategy that helped us get a more accurate snapshot of the people facing homelessness in our community. To combat homelessness, you have to ask people what their needs are.”
The 2011 Point-in-Time Count is especially important because, much like the U.S. Census, the figures that are reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to determine state and federal funding for the next two years.
Community members can participate by donating items, providing a service or fulfilling one of the volunteer roles such as conducting surveys or assisting homeless clients in locating the services they need that day. The event is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Centennial Hall.
For more information on what was learned at last year’s Project Homeless Connect, and about ways to assist with this year’s event, visit the Project Homeless Connect website at www.jedc.org/housing-connect.
The Juneau Homeless Coalition has worked to develop and implement plans to end homelessness in Juneau since its founding in 1996. More information about the coalition is available at www.jedc.org/housing-coalition.