A full day of running errands — visiting the license commission, paying off a court fine, visiting the dentist — can be difficult to organize for anybody, but for the homeless, it can be nearly impossible.
One of the goals of Project Homeless Connect, an annual event sponsored by the nonprofit Housing First Inc., is consolidating a full range of vital services into one central location so those who need them most can have access that could otherwise prove difficult.
“Just think, if I was homeless and needed to get a photo ID and my vision checked and I needed something done through the court system, it’d be difficult to run around and do all that with very limited resources,” Eric Jefferson, executive director of Housing First, said. “So we thought, ‘How great would it be if we could get everybody in one place … just for one day?’”
While the idea may seem simple, bringing together volunteers and service providers from the Mobile County Health Department, South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program, Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles, AltaPointe, the Department of Human Resources, the Mobile Housing Board and the Veterans Administration — to name a few — is trickier in practice.
For starters, it requires a fairly large area. Fortunately, The Grounds, home of the Greater Gulf State Fair, has offered a space to host the event for the past two years. According to Jefferson, that saves Housing First an annual cost that “would be upwards of $95,000.”
Project Homeless Connect has been able to organize dozens of service providers and assist hundreds of homeless individuals since it started in 2013. Last year, it drew more than 325 homeless to The Grounds, where they received not only basic medical and hygiene services but also job opportunities and legal assistance.
“The University of South Alabama medical school students provide health screenings and the volunteer lawyers program provides legal services for individuals who may have issues they need to get resolved [that] can keep them from getting housing,” Jefferson said. “You’ll also have city and the county courts there, and they’ll actually be able to hear cases that day.”
Other services include Ransom Ministries’ Clean Machine, a self-contained, 22-foot trailer with two bathrooms, three washing machines and three dryers that will allow those attending the event to shower and do laundry at no cost. The Delta Bike Project and Delta Dogs will also be on hand to offer bicycle repair services and basic veterinary care for those who have pets.
This year’s Homeless Connect Event is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27. Services will be offered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Grounds, 1035 Cody Road N. in Mobile, 36608. Free transportation will be offered from WAVE Transit bus stops to Providence Hospital, where a shuttle will transport clients to The Grounds.