Apr 222012
Authors: Andrew Carrera and Jason Pohl

The Fort Collins community and about 500 CSU students rallied on Friday to help the homeless
in a one-day outreach project that stood to change the lives of everyone who participated long after the five-hour event was brought to a close.

“I got a haircut, I got a bus pass that’s good for a month, I got a lot more information on the
employment resources … some housing information, haircut,” said Jeremy Barela, a 24 year-old
attendee. “Right now, I’m homeless and in need. It’s great that they’re offering this because it’s
been really helpful. They have a lot of stuff to give to give.”

The event, Project Homeless Connect, took place at the Northside Aztlan Community Center
for the third consecutive year. In that time, it has grown from helping about 240 of the areas homeless in 2010 to “about 500” this year, according to Bryce Hach, director of Homeward 2020.

“Events like this show that Fort Collins is willing to look at all sides of the fence of what kind of community we have and what we want to have in the future,” Hach said. “I think it came off very very well, and I was very, very pleased with it.”

Hach added that a major part of the project was data collection through surveys to really examine where resources need to be allocated on a policy and long-term level. But for the moment, the emphasis was getting people resources from across the spectrum to get them back on their feet and through the trying times.

“It’s one of those events where there’s a lot of people who are dramatically involved to make the whole thing happen,” Hach said. “It was great to see the willingness of so many to make it what it was.”

Dozens of local nonprofit organizations like Crossroads Women’s Shelter, Disabled Resource Services, the Fort Collins Housing Authority and Food Bank of Larimer County teamed up hundreds of mostly-student volunteers to provide goods and services to the estimated 500 homeless people or people on the brink of homelessness.

The city of Fort Collins, Bohemian Foundation, United Way of Larimer County and CSU SLiCE
office partnered with Homeward 2020 to put on Project Homeless Connect.

“There was a veteran who served, not recently, but he did serve eight years in the military and
he’s now homeless. He had never connected with the services. So, I let him know about all the
services that he could access, got him forwarded over to the veterans office workforce center,
because they can work with him to get approved for (Veterans Affairs) care,” said Amelia
Powers, a case manager for a local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office.

Volunteers were paired one-to-one with each participant and helped him or her navigate the array
of offerings that Project Homeless Connect provided, including Powers’ booth.

They weren’t just guides herding their clients into meetings with care providers. They were friends to share the day –– caring souls to confide in.

“Everybody seems to be very helpful, not like in some places where somebody would be a little
more pissed off because the other person’s helping somebody out,” said Oscar Perez, a 48-year-
old event participant. “It seems like everybody here is genuine and wants to help someone.”

It could be because that “someone,” for many students, reminds them of a special person in their
own lives.

“I think about my own mom and my parents, and just think about how any turn of events can
really just put you here. It kind of hits close to home, because (my client) really reminded me
of my own mother with how really caring she was,” said Josef Canaria, a CSU junior political
science major.

“She really loved going back to Homeless Gear and looking at the blouses and stuff,” he added. “That’s why I love coming to this all the time –– because everybody here I could relate with so much.”

Senior Reporters Andrew Carrera and Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm

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