By: Katie Sobiech
On April 28th, 2009, at 6:30 a.m. people began getting dropped off at the Chapel for Project Homeless connect – an initiative to supply those in need with the help and resources they were seeking. This is the second year that this national project has been held in Akron. Last year it was hosted at the Salvation Army.
The event, put on by the Akron/Summit County Continuum of Care, brought together 50 different agencies, all which were represented to those in desperate need of their services. They included The Haven of Rest, United Way, Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties, as well as many others.
The Akron Police Department as well as Salvation Army officers came in uniform as well to help with security.
“We are the first city in Ohio to do a Project Homeless Connect,” Sue Pierson, Vice President of Info Line, said, “This is modeled after projects all over the country, about 170 total.”
When the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. individuals were welcomed by staff and volunteers at the Chapel, and continued trickling in throughout the day. Trolleys circled the city from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 making stops to pick up anyone who wanted to come, and providing free transportation.
Anyone considered homeless was welcome.
“That could be anything from being street homeless, to being in transitional housing, to being displaced from the house due to foreclosure, or if they can’t afford medical care. Any of that is considered homeless,” Amy Glazer, Benevolence Ministry Assistant at the Chapel said.
Each person went through the same schedule of events, beginning with entertainment by the worship band, and then being processed by a social worker.
“After their needs are assessed they fill out a form, picking what services they want for the day,” Glazer said.
Thousands of the homeless in Akron were expected to show, and they had over 60 intake workers and over 700 volunteers.
After being assessed, individuals headed over to the gym where each person was paired up with a chaperone who guided them through the very large building, helping them find the services that they needed. They were also given the opportunity to eat and shower.
Four hundred breakfasts and twelve hundred lunches were prepared that day.
After eating and showering they were free to receive 5 services, whether it be getting their teeth cleaned, a haircut, mammogram or the countless other services offered.
“This is like a market place atmosphere down here,” Glazer said, referring to the Chapel’s lower level. “Here you can find agencies with giveaways and information that is helpful.”
Tables full of information and services filled the building.
The entire second floor of the Chapel was designated to medical personnel where people could get screenings, immunizations and other types of medical care.
“We have everything from depression screenings to HIV testing and counseling,” Glazer said.
Dental Care was offered as well.
“Dental care is one of the biggest needs that we see people come in with. Not just cleanings but usually having an abscess or infection and having teeth pulled,” Glazer said,
“Last year they had so many problems that they stopped cleaning teeth and spent the whole day extracting. One poor guy already had 10 teeth pulled this morning!”
Tobacco and nutrition counseling was also offered, and Wal-Mart came in to do vision screenings.
“We have the Gift of Sight program who donated vouchers for people who need glasses or eye care. They can receive that with the vouchers and will get a bus pass so that they can get to the eye clinic,” Glazer said.
One of the biggest stations that they prepared for this year was for haircuts.
“We have over 30 stylists that came in to donate their services,” Glazer said.
There was also a manicure station and clothing room, and Goodwill donated vouchers for people to pick out clothing at their store.
Other Services/Resources included:
- Addiction and mental health counseling
- Credit Bureau Reports
- Domestic Violence Information
- Prescription Medicine Assistance
- Resources for ex-offenders
- Job and Family Services
- Housing Services
- Legal Services
- Veteran Services
- Vocational Counseling
The disabled were welcomed by the Chapel’s Disability Ministry who helped them find their way through the building.
“I think that because of my disability there isn’t such a gap between me and them,”
Shanda Grubbs, one of the volunteers said, “We all have the same heart and needs. The main thing about this day is that we can help meet physical needs, but it is because of God that we can do that because He is our provider. So it is really important to communicate that in different ways. I am thankful that I can do that from a wheelchair. I hope it brings glory to God.”
Grubbs also spoke into the lives of many young girls at True North’s Ultimate Makeover last year, where she shared her testimony with girls in Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. She found common ground with the girls by relating being in a wheelchair to being in prison.
“I think a lot of people who don’t use a wheelchair see it as confining, but I see it as a platform. Not a spotlight on me but on Christ, because He is unlimited, He has no limitations and I hope people can see that,” she smiled.
Homeless to Wholeness
Another great testimony is that of the Salvation Army’s Mark Powers, who also volunteered at the event. Powers was homeless and lived in an abandoned building for about 8 months.
“I was a heroin addict for a long time, but I’ve been clean for four years now,” he said.
You may recognize him as one of the men in the Salvation Army’s Priority Magazine. He was photographed with Lenny, a homeless man who lived underneath a bridge for years and was set on fire by strangers.
Powers currently oversees a transitional home for drug addicts and alcoholics.
This event truly brought the community together in a way like never before. Not only did it help the homeless in the city of Akron in a big way, but it allowed many ministries and organizations in Akron with a heart for the poor to come together, serve and get to know one another. It’s an event you do not want to miss next year!
For more information please visit: http://www.nationalprojecthomelessconnect.com