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Project Connect is *Just Around the Corner* August 10, 2011

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The 2011 Project Connect theme is: We Are Community 

Project Connect will take place on SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011 from 8AM-1PM @First Baptist Church on 5 Oak Street.

People with and without homes are valued in this community; this year’s event will highlight the collective commitment of the community to create and implement solutions to ending homelessness.

Some exciting things to look forward to this year:

  • Businesses, organizations, and community groups will join in on the bold goal to house as many participants as possible,
  • Resources and services ranging from hair cuts to food stamp applications will be available to people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness,
  • Community volunteers from all walks of life will have the chance to support event participants & learn about issues of homelessness, and
  • Topical Issues will be discussed throughout the day to educate and encourage community participation.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!  It will take a little bit from everyone to make this event a reality!!
Help us get people into housing
Do you have a service or resource that might help someone access housing? This includes things such as offering a donation for a rent deposit, making an apartment available to a qualified candidate or donating furniture for someone who is moving in to their own place.  Even if you aren’t sure what you could offer, are you willing to come by and sign our giant poster to show that the community is renewing its commitment to ending homelessness?  Contact Amy Sawyer to get involved.
Can you provide information or services to people who are homeless?
We want you! Get creative & imagine how you might be able to offer support. This includes things like hair dressers giving hair cuts, nurses helping with foot care, or even something like a youth group singing during lunch to brighten the atmosphere.  Sign up here to offer a service.
Do you want to volunteer at the event?
We welcome volunteers from throughout the community and commit to providing you with training and support so that your experience is meaningful and helpful.  Sign up here to volunteer.
Can you donate something?
We’re hoping to fill over 300+ backpacks with things like toothpaste/toothbrush, razors, lip-balm, socks, and winter hats – your donations would help us reach that goal!  We’re also looking for people to donate fruit, biscuits, and granola bars for breakfast. Sign up here to donate.
Get involved!  To learn more, contact: Amy Sawyer, 828.259.5851

Tips For Volunteers December 30, 2010

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This time of year brings special holidays that offer many people time for celebration and reflection. With the turn of the year, people often take time to stop and reflect on their lives – what they enjoy and what they’d like to change. As well, good experiences over the holidays and the realization that at the end of the celebrations, many people have a safe, warm place to call home can lead to a sense of re-commitment to those who are not as fortunate.

Perhaps this is why we get a lot of people contacting us here at the Homeless Initiative during the holidays asking how they can help. We are happy to say that there are hundreds of different opportunities for community members. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here is a creative list of what you could do to help those experiencing homelessness, developed by Earth Systems. Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness has some great tips.

Volunteers have done everything from help serve a single meal to serving at Project Connect to joining a mentoring program with a team, helping a family settle into new housing and stabilize their lives. There is something for everyone and, often, the single most important things volunteers take away from the experience is the one-on-one connection made with a person experiencing homelessness. It is those human connections that again and again have birthed the most amazing actions and commitment that support housing and the people seeking it in our community.

To learn about volunteer opportunities: Contact United Way’s Hands On: http://www.handsonasheville.org. At this site you can search for local opportunities by agency, category or volunteer job to find your perfect fit.

If you know of an agency or type of agency that you’d like to contact, United Way’s 2-1-1 Community Information Line can help you get that agency’s contact information – just dial “211” on your phone or visit their online database: http://www.211wnc.org.

If you’re considering donating goods, be sure to call ahead to agencies to find out what they need and when the best time to donate is. If you’re planning on volunteering, here are some things to consider:

Know your strengths (and your limits).

Not all volunteer jobs are suited to everyone and that’s okay! Give some thought to where you think you could be most useful and chat with volunteer coordinators at different agencies to learn what opportunities exist. Your communication can help agencies offer better opportunities and can help you know more about what works for you!

Be open to new things!

It’s okay to be nervous, especially if you’re doing something totally new to you, and you might just discover that you love it! Being flexible not only helps the people you’re volunteering for, but it can teach you a lot about yourself.

Be consistent and considerate.

It takes a lot of effort to coordinate volunteer efforts and you can aid in the process by honoring your obligations by showing up on-time and with a positive attitude. Remember that the people you’re there to help are having a rough time and a smile from a stranger can mean a lot. It’s not always easy or elegant work, but it’s important work.

Lastly, be available!

Certainly the winter months pose significant challenges for people experiencing homelessness and the agencies serving them are glad that people want to help. But don’t forget that agencies need your help year-round. Their needs may shift slightly throughout the year and, by volunteering beyond the holiday season, you may find new volunteer opportunities that you adore!

You can make a difference now and you can make a difference year-round. Together we can end homelessness! To find the information detailed in this blog and more about volunteering and donating in our community, visit the Homeless Initiative website.

Project Connect 2010 Update October 29, 2010

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An excellent program …. Moved me to do more.”

On September 10, 2010 the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, in collaboration with the VA Stand Down, held the 4th annual Project Homeless Connect. This year was our best event yet!

Project Connect brings community-wide agencies together to provide services, information, and outreach to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness in order to provide them with the system of care that will help them move into or maintain stable housing.

“It was great to see so many people working together to help homeless people.”

For Asheville and Buncombe County, a community which prides itself on collaborating for the greater good and doing so in innovative ways, Project Connect is a perfect fit. The event not only helps people access housing, but is an opportunity for much more – it

  • Allows us to join together as a community to answer the needs of our neighbors,
  • Provides a space for innovation and creativity,
  • Fosters networking and collaboration among providers, businesses, faith groups and community members,
  • Offers a positive experience for everyone that is carried beyond the event,
  • Opens doors, creating new partnerships as we work together to end homelessness,
  • Honors the spirit of collaboration through our partnership with the VA Stand Down, a veteran-specific event that mirrors Project Connect.

“This is a truly rewarding experience. I appreciate the opportunity to participate. I think this is an event that everyone in our community would benefit from attending.”

Our collaboration and creativity allowed us to reach over 200  participants, 177 of which were documented in our HMIS database.

We couldn’t have done it without the efforts of over 65 volunteers, including 12 AmeriCorps and RSVP SeniorCorps volunteers who worked to help more than 50 community agencies represented at the event.

Project Connect was able to provide participants with services and supports such as: bus tickets that helped people get to and from the event and to follow-up appointments, housing information & applications, financial assistance, HIV & pregnancy tests, vision screenings,  foot care, substance abuse & mental health counseling, voter registration, haircuts, legal advice, employment & educational guidance, and pet care.

Furthermore, in an effort to support the City’s commitment to sustainability, all dining materials were recyclable and purchased from a local green vendor!

A special thank you to the participating agencies!

Feedback from participants:

“After talking with a teenage volunteer, he mentioned that his father is homeless. The young person expected to see his father at the event, hoping he knew about the services being offered. I had no idea that he had a close family member who was part of the homeless community. Just goes to show that homelessness can affect anyone and it’s even in places you might not expect.”

“I think what hit me again this year was the difficulty I had in differentiating participants from those volunteering and providing services. There is something about the change in terminology from homeless people to people experiencing homelessness that takes the labeling away. While I understand the need to categorize sometimes, homeless people sounds more like a charity perspective for people who are not like me, while people experiencing homelessness gives me the sense that people like me are having a challenge.”

Thank you again to everyone who turned out for Project Connect 2010! Your ongoing efforts to serve our community and end homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County are deeply appreciated.

Interested in helping with Project Connect 2011? Want to learn more about the Homeless Initiative? Want to volunteer at other events? Visit our website for more information on how to contact us!

You can see images of Project Connect 2010 on our Facebook page and on our Flikr account.

Participating Agencies for Project Connect 2010 October 29, 2010

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“I was so impressed with the Service providers that were there and how much they truly wanted to help people.” -Project Connect participant

Thank you to all the agencies at Project Connect!

A special thank you to:

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