Hillsdale Free Methodist Church in partnership with the Hillsdale Housing Continuum of Care took one-stop shopping to a whole new level at their Project Connect last week, even flying in the superhero Batman to watch over the event.
Project Connect aims at connecting homeless and impoverished community members with resources that will help them become self-sufficient. The event is free and open to the public, providing services like hair cuts, free hot meals, addiction help, health counselling, legal aid, and vaccinations.
In addition, Salvation Army, Domestic Harmony, Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness, and Disability Connections, and other organizations staffed kiosks laden with informational pamphlets, free samples, t‑shirts, and staff eager to connect with those who need help.
And, of course, Batman watched over the whole event, signing autographs and looking out for evildoers.
Jennifer Rose, a Community Action Agency housing specialist, helped organize the event.
“Basically it is a one-stop shop, which is good for people who don’t have a car because it is hard to get places,” Rose said. “They can come here and get any kind of service you can think of. If you need it, we have it. It’s really cool to see the community come together for it.”
Debbie Wilson helped her hearing-impaired friend take advantage of these exact services after learning about Project Connect through advertising on the radio.
“She can’t hear, so when I heard it on the radio, I said, ‘That’s where I am going,’” Wilson said, “because I thought she might be able to get help here because she is homeless.”
Wilson’s friend met with medical services and was referred to a Community Action office that will help her with her hearing problems.
To ensure that each participant maximizes his advantage of the Project, Rose explained, the organizers set up a “passport system.” As participants visit each station, they got their passport stamped and were automatically entered into various drawings and raffles for free services and items.
Young mother Rachael Forant discovered Project Connect for the first time this year. She took advantage of the service to pick up some pajamas for her kids who are staying at their grandmother’s house while Forant finishes recovery.
“It is nice to know that there is advice and a bunch of help out there. It just lets people know that there are people who care because there are a lot of people who just think there is nobody to help them,” Forant said. “And there truly is a lot of help.”
For Forant, Project Connect is especially helpful because it helps break the cycle of addiction. She said just knowing about these resources prevents rehabilitated-substances abusers from falling off the wagon and landing back on the street.
According to Clint Brugger, who helped organize Project Connect in conjunction with the Community Action Agency and the Hillsdale Housing Continuum of Care, this is the exact purpose of the event. He and fellow organizers aim to assist people in building stable homes and lives.
“Ultimately our goal is to engage people who are experiencing a housing crisis, or who are homeless, to move them towards housing,” Brugger said. “The intent is to really help people more toward self-sufficiency, so the more we can do to connect them to resources, the better off they will be in the long run.”