February 26, 2020
More than 770 San Diegans Experiencing Homelessness Access Resources, Services at The 14th Project Homeless Connect – Downtown San Diego
Finding employment was Marcus’ focus today at the 14th Project Homeless Connect – Downtown San Diego, where he waited in line with his wife and their 7-month-old son to access the variety of services available under one roof for San Diegans experiencing homelessness.
“Since my wife’s bags got stolen while we were out somewhere, we need to get a MediCal card for our son, for her, Social Security cards,” said Marcus, who currently stays with his wife and son at a shelter. “Pretty much whatever they’re offering right now – except for, like, a pet – other than that, I think we need everything.”
Marcus and his family were among the 771 people who attended the one-day resource fair today at Golden Hall at the San Diego Community Concourse to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness address their immediate and longer-term needs.
“Each person’s journey to permanent housing is different, and the Housing Commission’s annual Project Homeless Connect is an important resource for individuals to get connected to all the services they need in one place,” Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said. “This event brings together hundreds of service providers – each giving their time and effort toward the shared goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness for our most vulnerable residents.”
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) is the lead organizer of Project Homeless Connect. Major organizing partners are the City of San Diego, Father Joe’s Villages, Interfaith Shelter Network, Family Health Centers of San Diego, and the County of San Diego, as part of its “Live Well San Diego” initiative.
“Homelessness in San Diego is a humanitarian crisis, and for 14 years, Project Homeless Connect has been there to provide vital, badly needed services and referrals for our unsheltered neighbors,” said San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez, one of the Honorary Co-Chairs for this year’s event. “I’m grateful to the San Diego Housing Commission and all the participating volunteers and service providers for their heroic and selfless efforts on behalf of our vulnerable residents. For my part, I am committed to expanding access to affordable housing for all.”
Approximately 100 service provider booths were available, and more than 200 volunteers helped with this year’s Project Homeless Connect, including a group of students from San Ysidro High School. New service providers this year included Amazon Workforce Staffing, which provided employment services, and the U.S. Census Bureau, which recruited for temporary work as 2020 Census Takers.
“The outpouring of support for Project Homeless Connect exemplifies the efforts of San Diegans to assist their homeless neighbors. The diversity of providers and resources available is a perfect example of the collaboration needed to build a crisis response system that houses our most vulnerable and diverts people from homelessness in the first place,” said San Diego City Councilmember Chris Ward, also an Honorary Co-Chair of this year’s event and Chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Councilmember Ward represents District 3, which includes the Downtown San Diego area.
Connections to shelter and housing assistance information were available through SDHC’s Rental Assistance Division staff; program staff of SDHC’s homelessness action plan, HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO; and outreach staff from the City of San Diego’s Housing Navigation Center and the City’s Bridge Shelters.
“Project Homeless Connect demonstrates how the San Diego community comes together to provide needed resources, and that many resources and services are available for individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry said. “It is too soon to draw any conclusions from the numbers today. However, even as we make progress in addressing homelessness in the City of San Diego, it is important to continue to provide opportunities like this to connect San Diegans experiencing homelessness with the help they need to get back on their feet.”
City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell and SDHC Commissioners Dion Akers, Margaret Davis and Kellee Hubbard were among visitors who stopped by Project Homeless Connect today.
“I try to show as much respect as possible because any of us can end up in a situation very quickly – I almost did once,” said Commissioner Davis, who helped serve snacks and a warm lunch to attendees. “And so I really appreciate and understand how we can all be affected by homelessness either with ourselves or our family.”
Commissioner Hubbard volunteered at the information desk this year to help direct attendees to the services in which they were interested.
“I want to come out and see the work being done, the turnout, and also volunteer myself,” said Commissioner Hubbard, who also helped organize 20 volunteers from her employer, Commonwealth Financial Services. “It’s so amazing, just everything that’s being done in the community. I think the Housing Commission is doing an incredible job coordinating everything.”
Commissioner Akers described the event as a “well-oiled machine.”
“To see everything in action, all the providers just working so well together here today, is just really heartwarming, and I’m really glad to be even a small bit of part of it,” Commissioner Akers said.
For Twyla, a hair styling instructor at Riggins Urban Barber College, volunteering her professional skills to provide haircuts at the event had personal meaning.
“I grew up in the foster care system, and I was able to see when I got my hair done, when I went with specific families that allowed me to get my hair done, how great I felt,” Twyla said. “It makes me feel great to make someone else feel great.”
Additional services available at Project Homeless Connect included: flu shots; pet care; legal aid; identification cards from the California Department of Motor Vehicles; benefits assistance from the Social Security Administration; and domestic violence and human trafficking information from the County of San Diego District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division.
Major donors to Project Homeless Connect this year included:
- Hanes: 1,000 pairs of socks
- Downtown Fellowship of Churches: 1,000 hygiene kits
- COX Communications: Internet Services
- Father Joe’s Villages: 1,000 servings of hot meals
- PAWS: Pet Food (cats & dogs)
- Intercept Pharmaceuticals: 294 pairs of socks
- Logos Out Loud: more than $1,000 in shipping and storage fees
- Fulfilling Destiny: Feminine Hygiene Products
- Healthy Women Period: Feminine hygiene products
SDHC employees also held a donation drive that provided new socks and new or gently used shoes for Project Homeless Connect.
Tiffany said she came to Project Homeless Connect for information about housing because she has experienced homelessness “off-and-on” for 17 years. She also wanted to receive a haircut, clothes, food and an identification card because her previous identification had been stolen.
“It provides a way for resources, a lot of resources, hopefully people can take advantage of them and actually get help,” Tiffany said of Project Homeless Connect. “I think it’s great that you guys come together to help others that are less fortunate or don’t have family and have lost family or have lost themselves.”