The ninth annual Project Homeless Connect is set to take place on Oct. 15, 2014. The event will take place at the Gimaajii Building located on 202 W. Second St., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Project Homeless Connect is an event that happens once a year in many U.S. states. The event's goal is to provide some services and hospitality that is otherwise difficult for the homeless to receive.
In an effort to give voices to the often voiceless, this year’s Project Homeless Connect will include a listening session with elected officials. Joel Kilgour, a member of Duluth’s Loaves and Fishes and organizer for Project Homeless Connect said, “We are making a concerted effort to make the event more interactive for attendees.”
In addition to the listening session, the main purpose of the event is to provide those experiencing homelessness with free services and skills to improve their lives such as haircuts, flu shots, youth services, lessons in outdoor survival skills and much more. The event also provides a free lunch to those who attend.
A key service offered at the event is free Hepatitis C testing, provided by The Twin Ports Exchange. Kilgour explained that at the last count roughly 2,000 people in Duluth are living with Hepatitis C. With a large portion of that number being the homeless, this service is an attempt to reduce that number greatly.
Sometimes the littlest things, like the services offered at Project Homeless Connect, can make the difference between landing a job and living on the street.
For example, Kilgour shared a story of success following last year’s Project Homeless Connect event.
“Two individuals were experiencing homelessness and living in their car. The couple heard about the Project Homeless Connect event via the news, and decided to attend.” Kilgour was happy to share that the individuals are now living in a shelter and in the process of getting back on their feet.
The amount of homeless people in Duluth has grown exponentially over the past couple of years. On any given night in Duluth, around 750 people in the area are living on the streets.
“The biggest reason Duluth has such a high number of people experiencing homelessness is because Duluth has an extreme shortage of affordable housing,” Kilgour said.
Though the event organizers cannot expect Duluth's entire homeless population to attend, they hope to provide services to as many as possible. Project Homeless Connect is expecting as many as 400 people to attend this year. The project hopes to have just as many volunteers helping to make the event a success throughout the day.
Project Homeless Connect is made possible entirely by volunteers and donations. The event is still in need of volunteers with experience in cutting and styling hair. If you would like to volunteer in this area or any other area of the event, contact Joel Kilgour at 218-340-4356.