Most Viewed Stories
Project Homeless Connect organizers see greater need
Lupe Diaz, a city employee and one of the coordinators of this year’s Project Homeless Connect, saw a lot of new faces at the event designed to provide the homeless, or those who are at risk of becoming homeless, with numerous services Thursday.
Diaz, who has helped coordinate the event the last five years, said that more than 360 people registered Thursday to take advantage of services that ranged from housing, to employment to health, vision and dental care.
“I saw several new homeless faces and we’ve been seeing them for the past week. I don’t know what the difference is (between this year and the last), if they’re moving or passing through Porterville,” she said.
The one-day, one-stop event took place in the First Assembly of God Church parking lot where booths staffed by volunteers representing government agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses provided information, free flu shots, hair cuts, bike repair and warm meals, among other things.
Juan Vasquez, Jr., a Desert Storm veteran and a representative with the California Employment Development Department, offered attendees information about jobs, disability and veterans services.
By 10:30 a.m., Vasquez had seen veterans from both sides of the spectrum, from Vietnam to Iraq, but said one thing was common among both.
“They aren’t really aware of the services available to them,” he said. “When I got out of the service I thought I was by myself, so finally, 16 years later, I found out I get certain benefits from the VA. So that’s been our challenge and our goal — to bring awareness.”
Diaz said that after speaking with vendors, many said Thursday’s event was definitely more active this year than in years prior.
“They said people were actually talking to them about getting services. You can definitely see the difference because people would just walk by and now they’re actually seeking services,” she said.
Porterville’s Project Homeless Connect took place simultaneously on Thursday with events in Tulare, Visalia and Hanford. It follows a nation-wide model, with similar operations taking place regularly in cities like San Francisco. The event was founded locally on the concept that the problem of homelessness can’t be met with just one type of service.
The Kings/Tulare Continuum of Care on Homelessness is the lead organizer of the event.
According to Diaz, locally, in 2011 the event served about 400 people, 42 of them children.
On Thursday, there were a total of 362 registered clients, 40 of which were considered literally homeless, but Diaz said she believes there were more people taking advantage of services than the numbers reflect. Additionally, organizers made 62 dental appointments, 18 vision appointments, gave away about 118 reading glasses, repaired about 105 bicycles and served more than 500 meals, including clients and volunteers.
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.