A couple hundred volunteers and 36 agencies converged on Smith-Cotton Junior High, 312 E. Broadway, on Friday morning to help tackle the homeless problem in Pettis County.
Project Homeless Connect was spread throughout the FEMA building and the Fine Arts Building on the S-C Junior High campus.
Event organizer Roxanna Parker, Director of Housing for the Pettis County Community Partnership, explained that the project itself started 15 years ago in San Francisco.
“It’s a national best practice to serve homeless, and imminently homeless people. We have over 36 local service providers, coming as far away as Kansas City and Columbia to help us out,” Parker said.
“Our goal today is to be able to provide as many services as we can, and reduce the barriers that homeless people and those who are imminently homeless face while accessing the services they need,” Parker noted.
Agencies such as OATS, Center for Human Services Head Start, The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, MU Extension, Christ and Trinity Lutheran, Open Door Ministries, First Christian Church, The Embassy, Sedalia Housing Authority, CASA, Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, Bethel Family Church, Missouri Career Center, MissouriCare, Department of Corrections, Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, Department of Revenue and Pettis County Community Partnership, were on the scene, to name just a few.
A large group of Sacred Heart students were bussed to the school to help out with the project.
A couple of the areas the project focuses on are transportation and financial, for instance, Parker said. “We’ve brought everyone together in one location and we’re going to do everything we can to really help people get back on their feet.”
In October 2011, the project served over 300 familes. All told, 1,200 services were transacted, she said. “Today, we’re hoping for between 200 and 500 range. You never really have any idea how many you’re going to have. All we can do is get the word out through our agencies and media to the clients we’re trying to serve,” Parker stated.
“We will be doing it again in October 2013 to get back on the fall rotation with the rest of the state. Today we will be serving clients from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Parker said.
Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn helped kick off the event with a “Project Homeless Connect Day” proclamation read to the many volunteers gathered in the school gymnasium.
According to the Mayor’s Proclamation, each day across the State of Missouri, on average approximately 25,000 persons are homeless including more than one-third of these being homeless children. Each day in the City of Sedalia, an average of 90 to 95 persons are unsheltered homeless with more than one-third being children; additionally approximately one thousand are doubled-up, couch-surfing, or otherwise sheltered homeless; and each day in the County of Pettis, City of Sedalia, an average of approximately 135 persons are sheltered or being cared for in one of the shelters in our community including one-third children.
“The City of Sedalia, the 77-member PROP Alliance and the Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness are working together, coordinating an event that has become a nationally recognized best practice held in more than 777 cities across the U.S. called “Project Homeless Connect,” Mayor Horn said.
“It was a great turnout of both volunteers and clients. The true indication of the success of our combined efforts was reflected in the smiling faces of the participants as they left,” commented Cheri Heeren, Pettis County Community Partnership executive director, and a member of the Leadership Team. “It was evident that we had made a big difference in the lives of many, many people…and that’s what our work is all about…the people!”
While the vast majority of volunteers wore white T-shirts with the Homeless Connect logo displayed, about a dozen people wore bright magenta T-shirts and served as the leadership team, communicating with two-way radios. In addition to the activitiy in the FEMA building, the gymnasium was used as a free garage sale for used clothing for the homeless. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.