Spotlight on PATH Practices and Programs: Project Homeless Connect
Medical services. Hair cuts. Assistance applying for social security. Lunch. Dental care. Job opportunities. ID cards. All of this and more can be found under one roof at Project Homeless Connect events taking place around the country this winter and throughout the year.
Imagine a place where, in a few hours, you could have a prescription filled, have your teeth cleaned, get a haircut, talk to a benefits counselor, and shop for a new jacket—all in one location where everyone was friendly and concerned about your well being. This is the idea behind Project Homeless Connect. Project Homeless Connect began in San Francisco in 2004 and is now implemented in over 130 cities across the United States. The year after it was first implemented, the Interagency Council to End Homelessness launched the National Project Homeless Connect Partnership. On one day in 2005, 26 cities served 8,800 individuals at Project Homeless Connect events around the country. During one week in 2006, 40 cities hosted Project Homeless Connect events and served nearly 22,000 individuals. Project Homeless Connect looks different in every community, but the one thing that remains the same is the desire to deliver as many services as possible on one day, under one roof (United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2007).
Below are some tips from the PATH Spotlight on Project Homeless Connect:
To learn more about how PATH programs work with Project Homeless Connect download the full PATH Spotlight
- Organization and delegation are two keys for success. While some Project Homeless Connect events are smaller in scale, many are huge events with dozens of services and hundreds of volunteers and attendees. Organizing the event is a demanding task and many communities utilize team captains. A team captain has knowledge of a specific service area, such as medical or housing, and he or she recruits and organizes volunteers and organizations for that specific service area.
- Think of creative ways to involve the community with in-kind donations and unique services. At many Project Homeless Connect events, haircuts and massages rank with housing as the most popular services. Consider your connections and the different kinds of services you enjoy and invite people from local business to volunteer their services. Local colleges and faith-based communities are often a great resource for volunteers and donations. The key to getting organizations involved is dedicating time to reach out to the community.
- Have as many services as possible available at the event, and track meaningful outcomes. Project Homeless Connect isn’t about getting on a waitlist or getting an appointment three weeks from now. It’s about walking away with something you needed when you came in. Sometimes at Project Homeless Connect events, organizations will distribute information and make appointments but are unable to provide services at the time of the event. While this is an important first step, individuals who are experiencing homelessness often have difficulty following up with appointments. In an ideal world, individuals at Project Homeless Connect events are able to complete a full intake in a private screening area and meet their case manager while at the event. On the day of the event, try to have as many housing vouchers or beds available and employers who are ready to hire people as possible. Oftentimes, people are able to get housing or jobs by the end of the day. Beyond the big services like housing and healthcare, ID cards can open up doors for individuals, whether you create a city ID card or provide vouchers for state ID cards.
- Try to find ways to keep lines short, or at least entertaining. The biggest complaint from the volunteers at Project Homeless Connect events is that guests need to stand in line for registration and some of the services. While it might not be possible to eliminate lines all together, possible solutions include using more volunteers, having a place for individuals to sit and eat and then take them in waves to the services so the crowds aren’t as intense, or creating ID cards that can be scanned at future events so the intake process goes more quickly. Another solution is to provide entertainment or a place to do artwork while individuals are waiting in line.
- It doesn’t stop with organizing services… you also need to get people to come! In the weeks leading up to the event, most communities spread the word by posting flyers in shelters, soup kitchens, and other locations where people who are experiencing homelessness may congregate. PATH can play a large role in this effort by talking to people about the event and passing out literature. On the day of the Project Homeless Connect event, provide transportation if possible whether it is an outreach team with a van, designated bus pick up spots, an agreement with a cab company, or bus tickets. Transportation is crucial to get individuals to come in for services, especially in rural areas.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2007). Project homeless connect: A step-by-step guide. Washington, DC: Author.
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