Hands On Birmingham

Ending Veteran Homelessness at 7th Annual Project Homeless Connect

veterans

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.

Help End Homelessness: Volunteer at Project Homeless Connect

Spring is almost here; our neighborhoods are full of jonquils and the red bud trees are coming alive. I think it is safe to say that there will be only a few more days that require layers of wool coats and down jackets.

We have had a rough winter. While Snowmageddon and the Wintry Mix are less-than-pleasant recollections for anyone who spent multiple hours trapped on the roads in January, there is much to be said for the touching memory of our community pulling together to tow friends, neighbors and complete strangers from ditches; of exhausted teachers staying in inaccessible schools to keep the iced-in students safe; and of the outpouring of clothing, food, blankets, hygiene items and love for citizens in our City’s warming center at the Boutwell Auditorium.  Yes, I said “love.” Members of our community who have never met someone experiencing homelessness were moved by the plight of Birmingham citizens with no heat, no water and no bed to call their own.

The various churches, civic groups, nonprofits and individuals felt like the frigid temperatures of Snowmageddon constituted a crisis; they all felt that they MUST do something about the problem. That feeling of urgency, that recognition of a crisis, spurred them to volunteer and to donate, to step outside of themselves to help others. I am grateful to live in a community that has this kind of concern and love for all citizens, including those experiencing homelessness. However, I wonder what we could do if we didn’t wait for a crisis?

What would happen if all of the faith-based organizations, civic groups, nonprofits and individuals pooled resources to work on specific issues that contribute to homelessness, to solve problems that make people homeless, and to eliminate barriers that keep them homeless? Does it sound too good to be true that people of all faiths, races and socio-economic levels could play well together?  That happened with the Warming Station, and that was primarily about homelessness. Project Homeless Connect is coming up on April 5th, and it is 100% about homelessness, and is a model of what happens when people collaborate to address homelessness.

Project Homeless Connect is a one day annual event designed to provide services to people in homelessness – services that a person needs to get out of homelessness. This event is a partnership between the City of Birmingham, One Roof, Hands On Birmingham and United Way, but there are more than 65 agencies, businesses and organizations that collaborate to make the event successful. There are event leaders, but everyone works together with one plan and with one goal – – provide what homeless people need to get themselves permanently out of homelessness. All of the organizers pool their resources, make plans collaboratively, and work shoulder-to-shoulder the day of the event to make Project Homeless Connect successful.

We have seen our community’s amazing response to the 60+ hours of below-freezing weather. What could happen if the community worked collaboratively to pool resources, to make collaborative plans, and to work shoulder-to-shoulder to prevent the need for a Warming Station? If you would like to see a one-day answer to this question, volunteer to work at Project Homeless Connect by signing up at Hands On Birmingham to be a Smiling Face on April 5, 2014. If you are moved, fascinated and enlightened by what you experience at PHC on April 5, 2014, consider getting involved with One Roof, the agency that works daily to bring all the right resources, all the right people and all the right answers to our community to fulfill our mission of equipping and empowering our community to end homelessness through advocacy, education and coordination of services.

SnowMageddon was a crisis. Our community responded. The 1,469 people homeless on any given night in our area constitute a crisis. Help One Roof respond to homelessness by volunteering at Project Homeless Connect on April 5, 2014.

 

Michelle Farley is the Executive Director of One Roof. 

 

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