Project Homeless Connect matches services to those in need

Myrlene Grant with Love Inc. distributes toys. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

More than 130 people took advantage yesterday of the warmth and efficiency of Project Homeless Connect.

“People were here before we opened up and were pretty happy to get inside away from the cold weather,” Jessy Post says.

Post coordinated the annual event, similar to those held in cities across the U.S. this month. It brings together social and health care services to help those who are homeless, may be threatened by it, or just need a hand up.

Like Sandra Holmes, who’s glad to be back in Southeast after being homeless in Anchorage.

“I needed my birth certificate and my social security card. My purse got stolen so I don’t have my social security card, so they’re helping me here. I was living in Anchorage and became homeless up there. My family brought me back down to Southeast and they told me about this program today, so we came over,” Holmes says.

Volunteer Norene Nelson wipes hair from a man's face after cutting his hair.

Volunteer Norene Nelson wipes hair from a man’s face after cutting his hair. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Most of those taking advantage of everything from free flu shots to haircuts to lunch were single adults. But Homeless Connect coordinator Post says a number of families came through. Some folks just grabbed warm clothes and blankets, while others got on housing lists and sought help filling out Medicaid and other government forms.

Jasmine Tanape and her partner were at the Permanent Fund Dividend table with their 13-month old. She says Juneau is a tough place to get settled.

“They’re helping me with housing and they gave me some clothing vouchers and they’re helping with my PFD and applying for my Medicaid again. So they’re helping a lot,” Tanape says.

Steven Littlefield moved to Juneau in 2008. He came to Project Homeless Connect to find housing and work. He says he found the right agencies for both.

“They helped me with applications for housing and where I can go to get help for housing. They helped set me up with DVR – Division of Vocational Rehabilitation,” Littlefield says.

Attendees of the event are first directed to fill out a survey to help Project Homeless Connect estimate the size of Juneau’s homeless population. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

This is the fourth year Juneau has offered Project Homeless Connect, but the first time Post has coordinated the event. Yesterday she was “floating around where needed.”

“And I’ve been able to kind of do everything from talking with people, taking surveys to helping them find what service they need here. And it’s just been a great experience to see all this coming together and all the collaboration,” Post says.

Participants also were asked to take the Point-In-Time survey to determine the size of Juneau’s homeless population. Post says Project Homeless Connect works with other agencies to determine the size of the capital city’s homeless population, estimated at 562 last year.