Ending Veteran Homelessness at 7th Annual Project Homeless Connect


On April 5, 2014, One Roof, the City of Birmingham, Hands On Birmingham, the United Way of Central Alabama, and 65+ agencies collaborated at Boutwell Auditorium to provide services at our city’s 7th Annual Project Homeless Connect. On one day, with one goal, under One Roof, more than 1,000 community members came together to strategically end homelessness.

Project Homeless Connect (PHC) is a national best practice utilized in many cities across the United States and is also an important part of our community’s plan to end homelessness.  Since 2008, guests of PHC have had access to state ID (a necessary document for applying for housing or employment), medical and legal services, grooming services, housing services, and more. At this year’s PHC, One Roof took to heart the call of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National League of Cities to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.

The following agencies came specifically to assist Veterans struggling with homelessness in central Alabama: three SSVF (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families) participants: Hope for Heroes (Aletheia House), Family Endeavors, and Priority Veteran (United Way); one Department of Labor employment grantee, Jobs for Vets (Aletheia House); several VA Hospital programs and services: Homeless Intake, HUD-VASH, CWT (Compensated Work Therapy), SE (Supportive Employment), HVSEP (Homeless Veterans Supportive Employment Program), Grant and Per Diem Housing, and Phoenix Clinic.

Of the 921 total community members in housing crisis who attended PHC, nearly 20% were Veterans. Of those Veterans, 51 were chronically homeless, meaning they have a disabling condition and have been literally homeless for a year or longer or have experienced homelessness four or more times in the past three years. These 51 Veterans represent nearly one-quarter of all chronically homeless clients served at PHC on April 5.

One Roof believes that each Veteran in our community deserves stability and a safe, decent, and affordable home. These folks served to make our community, our country, and our world a safer, better place. In return, One Roof believes that we can make our community a safer, better place for our Veterans.

Project Homeless Connect is a life-changing event in our community that is made possible by the collaboration of many service providers to make sure that anyone who is homeless in central Alabama can have access to the tools and resources that will help them to leave homelessness forever.  To support One Roof’s mission to equip and empower central Alabama to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services, you can make a donation or contact One Roof by e-mail at info@oneroofonline.org.

Project Homeless Connect: Donate! Volunteer!

Our seventh annual Project Homeless Connect is Saturday, April 5 at Boutwell Auditorium. PHC is designed to provide an array of necessary services to people experiencing homelessness in our area — services that will help them leave homelessness forever. In one place, on one day, One Roof, Hands on Birmingham, City of Birmingham, United Way, and 65+organizations and businesses collaborate to eliminate barriers to housing for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Check out this post from Michelle Farley, our Executive Director, to learn more about this event, then follow the links below to support One Roof’s efforts.


A $20.00 donation will provide State ID for one homeless person struggling to move past that homeless state. One Roof will spend $3500 – $4500 at Project Homeless Connect just for State ID. Please partner with One Roof to provide identification.

It is hard to move out of homelessness if you are sick, or if you can’t afford to purchase the medications that keep you well. One Roof pays for the life-saving medications (no narcotics) prescribed for clients at Project Homeless Connect. One Roof will spend $1500 – $2500 for medications. Partner with One Roof now to provide medication.


Want to participate in this life-changing (for clients AND volunteers) event? Sign up at Hands On Birmingham to be one of the 1,000 Smiling Faces needed to make PHC successful. Smiling Faces receive a brief training at PHC and then help homeless clients navigate the Boutwell to get the services they need.

Have mobility issues but still want to volunteer?  Contact Valerie@oneroofonline.org to be:

  • A Line Guide: Monitor lines for specific services to make certain clients are in the correct line, have the items they need to access that specific service, etc (can be done mostly from a stationary folding chair).

  • A Door Docent: Sit in a folding chair at entrances, exits, and no-access doors to make certain that event participants are going in the right direction.


Click here for more information on Project Homeless Connect and other One Roof events and programs.


Already donated? Signed up to volunteer?  Still want to make more of a difference in the life of someone struggling to get out of homelessness? Share this information with friends, family, neighbors, church groups, civic organizations, Greek affiliations, etc!
Preventing and ending homelessness is a community effort. We need YOUR help to do this. DONATE. VOLUNTEER. LEARN.

Cardboard Connect Volunteer Testimony

On March 8-9, One Roof and YouthServe partnered to host our second annual Cardboard Connect. CBC gives local youth (aged 13-18) the opportunity to learn about issues related to homelessness and prepare hygiene kits for guests of Project Homeless Connect. This year, youth participated in a homelessness simulation called Cardboard City, constructed a cardboard house to sleep in for the night, and heard from a panel of formerly homeless persons, persons experiencing homelessness, and persons working in homeless services. During the event, we saw a real change in the way our youth participants and adult volunteers thought about issues related to homelessness.

Here’s a volunteer testimony from Kayla Bird, a student partnering with One Roof this semester through UAB’s Interprofessional Global Health Service Learning program:

“I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at Cardboard Connect, and I had a fantastic time. I met so many people who were dedicated to learning about and serving the homeless, and got to hear personal stories about what it is truly like to experience homelessness.

Through this event, we experienced a day in the life of a homeless person, from a soup kitchen meal to building cardboard houses to act as shelter for the night. We participated in a simulation that taught the participants, as well as the adult volunteers, just how hard it is for those experiencing homelessness to acquire things such as three square meals a day, housing for the night, legal documents, and employment. The simulation also provided the participants with a chance to learn about subpopulations, and how different subpopulations have better chances of acquiring things than others. Cardboard City really allowed everyone involved to step into someone else’s shoes and really attempt to grasp the challenges these people actually face every day. It made me sad to learn just how easy it would be for a homeless person to lose hope in ever getting back on their feet again.

The panel of speakers, and the vigil held for the homeless individuals who had recently passed away, filled me with so much emotion and inspiration; I wanted to leave after the event and immediately start helping the homeless population of Birmingham. Through discussion in small groups, we were able to break down the stereotypes placed on those who are homeless, as well as come to the realization that homelessness can happen to anyone. It was humbling to know just how fortunate I am to know where I am going to sleep tonight, and that I am able to get a meal when I want one.

Towards the end of the evening, we participated in a service project, making hygiene kits for the upcoming Project Homeless Connect. We packed items in these kits that are essential for healthy living: items such as soap, toothbrushes, and tissues, which a lot of people today take for granted. This project was easy, quick, and will really be helpful for those who come to PHC. The participants were able to learn just how easy helping the homeless can be.

Overall, this experience really broadened my understanding of the homeless population. I feel like I can better help those experiencing homelessness because now I have seen and heard about some of the challenges they face, and I learned ways that I can help. I would recommend Cardboard Connect to everyone, and I will definitely volunteer again next year.”

Kayla is from Collierville, Tennessee, and she is a freshman Biology major in the Science and Technology Honors Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, aspiring to become a pediatric oncologist. Here’s what Kayla has to say about her experience partnering with One Roof this semester:

“Caring for people has always been something I have been passionate about; it was actually one of the major factors that led me to pursue medicine. This semester I had the privilege of taking part in a course at UAB that allowed me to directly interact with a community partner to help implement projects that would benefit the partner and the community as a whole. I was really excited to learn that I was assigned to One Roof, because although I did not know the extent of the work I would be doing over the semester, I knew I was going to help a population that I was genuinely curious about. I really wanted to challenge myself to push past any stereotypes against the homeless population built up by myself and those who surround me and gain a new perspective on the world. Homelessness was a common sight both in Memphis and in Birmingham, and it broke my heart. However, I was wary to lend a helping hand because I was unsure of how to approach these individuals and what to do to assist them. Over these past couple months, I not only have a deeper understanding of the struggles faced by those experiencing homelessness, but I have also gained the confidence I needed to reach out to these individuals and actually try to make a difference in their lives. This experience has helped me come to the realization that no matter your situation, race, religion, or gender, we are all human, and all humans deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I hope that throughout my lifetime, I can not only remember the lessons I learn this semester, but also inspire those around me to break stereotypes and view the world from this humbling perspective.”

One Roof is dedicated to equipping and empowering our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and the coordination of services. We know that preventing and ending homelessness requires identifying and breaking negative stereotypes associated with persons experiencing homelessness in our community. We are committed to educating our community about issues related to homelessness, and Cardboard Connect is one of several educational opportunities that we offer throughout the year. Click here to support our educational efforts, then read about how you can help end homelessness in our area by volunteering at Project Homeless Connect.


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