Homeless Connect to gather service providers in one location

Event, in it's second year, aims to help Juneau's more than 500 homeless residents

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011

Centennial Hall will become a one-stop event for service providers to lend a hand through Project Homeless Connect on Monday. This will be the second time Juneau has hosted the event, which will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Project Homeless Connect is aptly titled. It’s designed to connect those experiencing homelessness with multiple service providers all in one place. This can be anything from help with employment, housing, food, clothing, medical needs, dental screenings or domestic violence and HIV education. Even services that many take for granted, like haircuts and foot care, will be available for those who have difficulty acquiring these on their own. Such services were immensely popular last year, said Scott Ciambor, co-chairman of the Juneau Homeless Coalition, which sponsors the event with the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

“Last year it seemed to be kind of a galvanizing event for social service providers,” Ciambor said.

Of course, the needy get even more out of the event. Ciambor said 177 received services here last year, and more are expected this time now it is a returning event rather than a new one. He said the outpouring of appreciation last year was overwhelming.

Numerous organizations are slated to participate, such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Alaska Legal Services, the University of Alaska, Juneau Youth Services, Rainforest Recovery, Juneau Public Health, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, National Alliance for Mental Illness, the Juneau School District and many local churches, among other places.

Ciambor said a new Veterans Affairs Outreach Clinic will also try to address the needs of veterans, who he said make up a significant portion of Juneau’s homeless. Thirty of last year’s homeless who received services at Project Homeless Connect were veterans.

One of the big services the event will provide is an attempt at an accurate count of Juneau’s homeless by using the Point-in-Time Count Survey. This is a one-day count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness that is sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Such counts are used to determine state and federal funding.

The official count in Juneau last year was 537, significantly higher than the 403 count the previous year.

Ciambor said the coincidence of the survey done here with information from the various agencies should provide a more accurate count than might be available otherwise if surveys were only sent out to hospitals or other providers.

“What we found locally is that count isn’t accurate enough, so we’re using this event to get a more accurate count,” he said.

Ciambor said there is room for more volunteers, survey help and service providers. Those interested can find out more at http://jedc.org/housing-

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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