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Project marks third year of connecting homeless with available services

Project marks third year of connecting homeless with available services

'It's all about giving back'

October 21st, 2017 by Brittany Hilderbrand in Local News

2017 FILE: Joyce Hill talks to David Crowe as she prepares to stick his finger for a blood sugar test. Hill is an LPN and attends Second Baptist Church; she was one of numerous people helping at the Project Homeless Connect event.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

For the third year, Project Homeless Connect created a bridge between service providers and people in need across Cole County.

Project Homeless Connect is designed primarily for people experiencing homelessness, but services also are open to those who are doubled up or uninsured.

"I grew up here my whole life, and I am very impressed the community has come together to put this event together," said Adam Casada, who attended Project Homelessness Connect for the first time Friday. "I've never really heard of this event until today."

Throughout the day, more than 50 service providers were housed in First United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church and First Christian Church combating homelessness together.

"These people are uniquely in need and have very limited resources. It's a joy to serve them," First Baptist Church member Lory Feeler said.

Representatives from state agencies including the Department of Mental Health, Department of Health and Senior Services, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education were present talking with clients who came to their tables.

Each client was assigned a tour guide who helped direct them to the services best fitting their needs.

Michael Stites was paired with Daniel Hilty, a Project Homeless Connect volunteer, who assisted Stites in registering for laundry services and stocking up on non-perishable food.

Stites said his favorite part of the day was watching younger people receive the services they need.

"When you're homeless, you may not have that social media outlet that alerts you to the people you need that are right here in Jefferson City," said Hampton Mason, lead monitor of admittance in the homeless shelter at the Salvation Army.

Mason said the event makes people conscious of the opportunities they have in Jefferson City.

He used the example of free legal services offered every other Saturday at the Salvation Army that could help in getting housing or dealing with other situations.

"We have a social service side to our office, offer a church, a homeless shelter, thrift shop, vouchers for clothing and much more," he said.

Younger clients like Alex Brazil said the event was an opportunity to get some of what he needed before the winter hits. He is originally from the St. Louis area.

In addition to the community organizations and vendors present, clients were able to receive same-day testing for HIV and hepatitis, blood pressure readings, eye exams and dental screenings.

The same-day appointments for eye screenings were limited to seven people, but all clients were scheduled for future appointments.

New services like podiatry, eye exams and glasses, and assessments of vulnerability for being placed in permanent housing also were available.

"It's all about giving back and serving the underserved," Michelle Mooney, dentist at Community Health Center, said.

Cole County Emergency Medical Services representatives were serving food to participants.

"In a public safety community, it's important to be a part of the community we serve," Cole County EMS Director Jerry Johnston said.

Deputy Chief Kevin Wieberg added: "We do interact with these people quite often when they are injured or in a state of crisis, but being able to share a smile is fun and makes us feel good, too."