Members of Hillsdale’s homeless com­munity receive haircuts during the Project Homeless Connect event.
Scott McClallen | Col­legian

The Hillsdale County Project Homeless Connect brought together more than 25 orga­ni­za­tions Tuesday to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ of human ser­vices for homeless people and those in need at Hillsdale Free Methodist Church.

Project Homeless Connect, spon­sored by the Hillsdale County Housing Con­tinuum of Care, has brought local non-profit orga­ni­za­tions to one location, offering hot meals, haircuts, employment and edu­cation oppor­tu­nities, mental health ser­vices, and per­sonal items to those in need since 2009.

Cas­sandra Willoughby, the Sal­vation Army’s case manager, was one of 178 vol­un­teers, pro­viding toys and per­sonal care items to children.

“We come every year to provide social ser­vices and to link people to resources to meet their needs,” said Willoughby.

Bekah Hampton, a hair­dresser at Studio 17, was one of three employees at the studio who chose to work at Project Homeless Connect for the day, closing Studio 17 on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a great oppor­tunity to reach out to those who nor­mally wouldn’t come to our business. It’s really a hum­bling expe­rience to give a haircut to someone who needs it, and to make them feel better about them­selves — that’s kind of why we do what we do,” Hampton said.

One orga­ni­zation, Child Abuse Pre­vention and Awareness (CAPA), edu­cated new parents on safe sleeping habits for infants — infor­mation which could have pre­vented two Hillsdale County infant deaths in the past year.

Many attending weren’t homeless, but came for free food and ser­vices.

“Some of these people just need a little help. One man received his first haircut in five years today. The hair­dressers are the real super­stars here,” Hillsdale County Director of Com­munity Action Agency Maxine Van­lerberg said.

Hillsdale County receives a Mck­inney-Vento Homeless grant, a $2.145 billion program aiding the homeless. The program requires a biannual Point-in-Time count, which cat­a­logues the number of homeless in the county. This report is then sub­mitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Devel­opment. The Hillsdale County Housing Con­tinuum col­lected the PIT count infor­mation in the Free Methodist lobby, and then par­tic­i­pants were welcome to all ser­vices pro­vided.

“It’s a group effort. We focus on housing, but these people need food, clothing, sub­stance abuse help, infor­mation, and legal advice. They should be able to meet someone here who can help,” Van­lerberg said.