Project Homeless Connect: An event to change lives

What makes today so special are not just the sleeping bags waiting to be given out, the free haircuts or even the new shoes. Today is about the smiling faces, the friendly people, and bringing the Fort Collins’ community together.

Fort Collins homeless resident And Swanson recieves a free haircut from volunteer Teri Luna of Cheeks Beauty School during Project Homeless Connect at the Atzlan Community Center Friday morning. The annual event provides individuals and families suffering with homelessness with neccesary ammenities including doctor checkups, dental help, veterinary services and haircuts.
Fort Collins homeless resident Andy Swanson recieves a free haircut from volunteer Teri Luna of Cheeks Beauty School during Project Homeless Connect at the Atzlan Community Center Friday morning. The annual event provides individuals and families suffering with homelessness with neccesary ammenities including doctor checkups, dental help, veterinary services and haircuts.

On Friday April 12, the CSU community, Homeward 2020 and the Bohemian Foundation came together to put on the fourth annual Project Homeless Connect event in Fort Collins.

Project Homeless Connect partners a homeless client one-to-one with a volunteer. The volunteer is there to help them navigate through all the organizations that are volunteering services or items such as dental care, clothing, or family photographs.

“It’s one of those few events in the community that no matter your income or housing situation, the whole community comes together,” Christian Breedlove said.

Breedlove started a job a few weeks ago, and is hoping to be in a home in three weeks.

“As much benefits as there are,” Breedlove said, “there isn’t one unhappy face in here, which is already a positive event for the community.”

Third time volunteer and senior CSU political science major Josef Canaria agrees that it’s great to see the community come together.

“At the end of the day, we learn from clients as well and we’re all in this together,” Canaria said.

The CSU SLiCE office played a major role in Friday’s event. Regan Brown, the student coordinator from SLiCE said that there were about 350 to 400 CSU students volunteering.

“Seeing the human interaction is my favorite part,” Brown said. “People come and tell me that this day changed their lives.”

Vanessa Fenley, director of Homeward 2020 – a group in Fort Collins working to end homelessness in the area in 10 years – said that events like Project Homeless Connect shows the energy in the community and that homelessness isn’t something we should accept.

“Today is about getting needs met,” Fenley said. “So they can have an easier day, and hopefully, it turns into a long term change.”

Fenley has only been director of Homeward 2020 for two months now, but volunteered at events similar to the Fort Collins Project Homeless Connect while living in Denver.

“Seeing people walk through the door with smiles on their faces and knowing that we can offer the kind of day people are asking for is really uplifting,” Fenley said.

Breedlove said he will be back next year, even if it’s just to see how everyone is doing.

Collegian writer Corrie Sahling can be reached at news@collegian.com.