The 5th Annual Project Homeless Connect, to be held April 11 at the Northside Aztlan Center in Fort Collins, is just one aspect of a blueprint to end homelessness in Fort Collins. Project Homeless Connect is a one-day, one-stop event where an expected 500 adults and children who are homeless or near homeless can access a wide range of services needed to gain greater stability in their lives.
“Although Project Homeless Connect is a single-day event, the resources available to clients can have a major impact on their future and the future of homelessness in our community,” said Vanessa Fenley, executive director of Homeward 2020. “This event gives us the opportunity to better understand the barriers that many of our residents face in having a permanent home. With that knowledge, we can develop long-term solutions to break down those barriers.”
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Homeward 2020, Bohemian Foundation and Colorado State University Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE) co-produce the event with support from United Way of Larimer County.
With dozens of local nonprofits, government agencies and businesses providing free on-site services, there is something for everyone at Project Homeless Connect. Services include basic car inspection, bike repair, medical screenings, basic dental screenings for adults and children, eye exams, family photos, haircuts, clothing and gear, housing information, ID and legal services, employment specialists, counseling services, child care and children’s activities, bus passes, children’s books, massages, toiletry packages, pet health care and pet food.
New and expanded services this year include:
• Legal services, provided by Fort Collins Municipal Court. Court clerks will be available to check the status of any outstanding tickets. The Fort Collins municipal judge will also be available via phone to hear any cases and offer alternative penalties to fines.
• Pediatric dental screenings, provided by ToothZone.
• Expanded Veteran services, provided by Cheyenne VA Medical Center, Rocky Mountain Human Services and Volunteers of America.
• Information on Medicaid, CHP+ and health insurance coverage options through Connect for Health Colorado (in addition to adult health screenings), provided by Health District of Northern Colorado.
• Outdoor pet care, provided by Colorado State University Veterinary School.
Each client will be paired one-to-one with a volunteer who will help the client navigate the wide array of services and offerings available. SLiCE currently has recruited more than 400 CSU students and Fort Collins community members to volunteer.
Homelessness is a community-wide issue that needs a community-wide solution. Project Homeless Connect is an important springboard for raising awareness of the issues faced by individuals experiencing homelessness. This insight must lead to proactive conversations and action to end homelessness in Fort Collins. While Project Homeless Connect provides a needed and valuable service in the community, it remains a goal of Homeward 2020’s Ten Year Plan to realize the changes needed to eventually reduce the need for future Project Homeless Connects.
Project Homeless Connect opens its doors at 8 a.m. and closes at 12 p.m. at the Northside Aztlan Community Center located at 112 Willow Street, Fort Collins.