Sacramento Homeless Connect
Sacramento Homeless Connect is a one-day event that will take place on May 31, 2008 at Cal Expo. The event will provide services for homeless people in a consumer-centric "one stop shop" format. The event is modeled after the national Project Homeless Connect, which links people to services in a convenient and welcoming environment. The event provides opportunities for homeless guests to be linked to housing and employment programs, receive legal, medical, dental and other assistance and enjoy food and entertainment. Special services such as haircuts, pedicures, wheelchair maintenance, bike repair, chiropractic and massage may also be provided.

Project Homeless Connect has taken place in cities across the United States. In California, communities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego have hosted such events. This will be the first time Sacramento will host a Project Homeless Connect event and it is hoped that the event will take place once or twice every year.

Homeless guests at Project Homeless Connect events in other cities have noted that the format of the event is useful because it reduces the stress associated with contacting different services separately. The format also allows people to become familiar with services of which they may have previously been unaware. The hope is that homeless guests at the event will gain access to services and long-term solutions that will help them eventually move off the streets and into permanent housing.

In a recent Gallup Poll funded by the Fannie Mae Foundation, approximately 58% of those surveyed believe that "the nation is doing a bad job of addressing homelessness"*. In addition, 80% of adults surveyed "report a willingness to volunteer their time to a local organization that helps homeless people"[i.d.]. By hosting a Project Homeless connect event, Sacramento can not only contribute to the nation’s efforts to more aggressively address the problem of homelessness, but can also create an opportunity for community members to participate in that process. Community members from schools, business, and faith-based groups have the opportunity to make connections with people who they may routinely ignore. These new and positive connections help debunk common myths and stereotypes about people who are homeless. San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom said about their event, "Project Homeless Connect is breaking the myth that people do not seek assistance and services and would rather be on the street. The data prove that when people are approached in a respectful and kind manner, and with available resources, they are eager to accept help toward self-sufficiency."

We need the entire community's help in working to end chronic homelessness in Sacramento. This event is a great way for individuals and organizations to become active leaders in ongoing community efforts to address this issue. Both public and private organizations can become partners in the effort by providing sponsorship, volunteer teams, and planning support for the Sacramento Homeless Connect event.

Organizations and businesses can contribute a team of volunteers, provide in kind services, or make a financial contribution to the event planning team. Monetary donations can be used for general logistical support and more than 50% will go towards providing direct services for an emergency fund that will help individuals at the event.

Sacramento Homeless Connect is affiliated with the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Sacramento County (www.communitycouncil.org /homelessplan) and is being co-chaired by Mayor Heather Fargo and Supervisor Roger Dickinson. Contact Susanna at scurry@communitycouncil.org" or scurry@communitycouncil.org for more information on how you can participate or donate.

* "Homelessness in America: Americans' Perceptions, Attitudes, and Knowledge" Fannie Mae Foundation. Nov. 2007 (www.fanniemae.com) from the Interagency Council on Homelessness website (www.usich.gov)