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Project Homeless Connect marks a beginning, not an end

December 1, 2017 – There are different ways to measure successful impact, says Samantha Gamble-Kintz, the Community Initiatives Information Specialist from the Missouri Housing Development Commission. If you deeply affect the life of one person, that’s a success. If you make a smaller impact on a great number of people, that’s also a success. And whether one uses the first or the second metric to measure success, Project Homeless Connect was certainly a big one.

BACKGROUND

Project Homeless Connect was held in November, at Lewis Elementary. It was funded and produced through a partnership between the MHDC, which gave the city a $10,000 grant for the event, and the Good Samaritan Center. Each year, the MHDC chooses a community, based on needs and ability to provide services, and focuses on that community for a year, culminating in an event that seeks to connect the homeless within the community to services needed, with a focus on housing. The services included a housing triage area, explained Robyn Hudson, a housing specialist with Tri-County Mental Health. Using a screening tool, she helped determine which people were the most vulnerable and in need of immediate help.

THE HOMELESS IN OUR COMMUNITY

Everyone who walked through the door for Project Homeless Connect was given a personal guide, who stayed with them for the entire event. This proved to be very helpful, participants said. They also opened up about the type of hurdles they face in obtaining safe, affordable housing. Finances prove to be the biggest challenge for the majority of them. Furthermore, many of them have much more complicated hurdles that prevent them from obtaining housing, says Jennifer Chappel of the Good Samaritan Center. The center works closely with those households in an attempt to overcome some of those boundaries, which include such complications as legal issues.

The homeless also spoke up about what the community could do to help get people into housing. Many offered concrete, common-sense suggestions, such as fostering better communication between agencies, and ready funds to help with down payments. But several went even deeper, and asked for empathy from the community. “Quit judging,” several people said, “and open up your heart.”

WHAT NEXT?

The committee plans to continue to meet on a monthly basis, in order to continue to address the homelessness in Excelsior Springs in an ongoing manner.

Some deeper issues that need to be explored include the lack of church involvement in the project, as only three local  pastors were present at Project Homeless Connect.

Another problem that may be addressed is access to  transportation. Because many people lack access to reliable transportation, their housing choices are greatly narrowed to areas that are within reasonable walking distances of their employment.

However, the committee will continue without the assistance of the MHDC, since that was a yearlong commitment that has ended. But Gamble-Kintz has confidence in the strong group of passionate volunteers she’s grown to know over the past  year, and confidence in the community, as well.

“Without our grant, you can still do this, because you have a very generous community who was willing to come out and volunteer,” she stated.

“The event has given us the ability to see what the needs of the homeless in our community are,” Courtney Cole, grant writer for the Good Samaritan, stated. “We need to continue to talk about what kind of solutions we can find. We have people every day who are coming in and asking for help.”

The committee plans to meet again in January.

By Samantha Kilgore • samantha@leaderpress.com

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