Project Homeless Connect provides health, resources to those in need

Meagan Stackpool

The spirit of giving came to Fort Collins Friday with the Project Homeless Connect event. 

Project Homeless Connect is an annual event nationwide serving as a proverbial one-stop shop for members of the community struggling with homelessness or almost homelessness.

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Jodie Riesenberger, Community Programs Manager for the Bohemian Foundation and one of the overseeing parties, explained why the all-day event was so important for the community.

“The event helps individuals and families experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, access supports in one convenient place,” Riesenberger wrote in an email to The Collegian. “So many people come together for the event, there is a strong feeling of community. The event also provides a uniquely meaningful opportunity for community volunteers to connect with guests and help.”

During the event, guests were met by a volunteer from the community who personally lead them through the entirety of the services provided. The SLiCE office worked with CSU to provide the majority of the volunteers.

Jen Johnson, the assistant director at SLiCE, explained why volunteering at Project Homeless Connect is so important.

”You think about people that are experiencing homelessness, that’s a fairly invisible population and there can be some feelings of shame or negativity around that,” Johnson said. “I think for people to feel like a human being is connecting with them in a way that’s kind and friendly is a really big deal.”

A press release from the Bohemian Foundation stated that more than 40 local service providers attended the event, providing information about services and assistance. They also provided a number of free services, including basic car inspection, bike repair, medical screenings, basic dental screenings for adults and children, eye exams, family photos, haircuts, housing information, employment services, counseling, child care and children’s activities, bus passes, massages, toiletry packages and much more. There was also a mobile laundry truck available to the public, as well as the League of Women Voters helping register people to vote.

The CSU Veterinary school provided free check-ups and vaccinations to dogs that were brought by guests, assisted by a local veterinarian.

Melissa Reese, director of I Support the Girls, was handing out bras and feminine hygiene products to those who found their way over to her. Reese explained that these were incredibly basic items, yet they were rarely provided for and have a huge impact when they are not.

“Just today I was helping a woman who was looking for her size and she was kind of an odd size and we were going through and we were finding a few and she just kind of looked at me and she was like spending a really long time since I’ve had a bra that fit,” Johnson said. “Then we found one that was pretty, and she just kind of looked at me and [said] ‘this is beautiful.’”

Johnson went on to explain that bras are a necessity, just like toilet paper or underwear, and adversely affect the lives of women and girls who are unable to access them.

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Among the various service providers aimed at addressing both the root and immediate causes, Sheryl Daniel, the owner of Bare Heart School of Massage, was giving out free massages to any guest willing to wait their turn.

“I don’t really know what happens to people [after this event], but i do know what happens to them today and that will impact them, is that they’re seen,” Daniel said. “They’re not invisible street people or whatever. They’re greeted with a smile and a handshake and we touch them.”

Meagan Stackpool can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MeaganStackpool.