Published: Oct 13, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Apr 16, 2013 01:03 AM
CHAPEL HILL - From haircuts to winter coats, hundreds of local residents experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their homes got help Thursday at Project Connect.
The free, all-day event, run by the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, was a one-stop shop for nearly every service one could imagine health and dental services, information on mental health and substance abuse treatment, housing and job assistance, legal services, reading glasses and voter registration. Attendance was up from last year, with 265 people receiving services.
Everybody gets excited about free services, said first-time attendee Kathryn Poole, 39, of Chapel Hill, who came with her 18-month-old daughter, Ellie. Especially when its so hard to afford all the services they offer.
Poole is being treated for alcohol dependency at the UNC Horizons residential treatment center and found information on housing options for single mothers, legal services and counseling at Project Connect.
Orange County had 110 people who were homeless during this years annual count in January, down from 136 a year ago. The number does not include people who are unstably housed, such as those living with friends or family.
Its really the people who are in the most dire circumstances who end up in shelters, said Jamie Rohe, homeless programs coordinator for the partnership.
Theres a lot of other people most people would consider homeless, but theyre much harder to count, she said. Theres a lot of people that we miss, a lot.
Formerly called Project Homeless Connect, the renamed event links people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless with services from about 60 different providers, including Legal Aid of North Carolina and Orange County JobLink. The event takes place through the help of volunteers and donations.
When they arrived at the event, many attendees, especially older attendees, were most interested in the health, vision and dental services offered, especially podiatry, said Mark Weinberg, a volunteer from Chapel Hill.
Chapel Hill resident Gwen Floyd searched through the racks of coats and jackets from the PTA Thrift Shop until she found the perfect winter coat purple, with a zipper lining.
I need a haircut really bad, she said, before checking out the hair salon staffed by local hairstylists.
Mark Holt, owner of Masterpeace barbershop in Hillsborough, said he enjoys giving back to the community every year at Project Connect and wishes it was held twice a year.
I just love how it makes me feel, he said.
Although Project Connect attendees in need of substance abuse treatment may not immediately go into treatment, knowing what options are available could help them in the future, said Carol McClelland. She works in outpatient services at UNC Horizons, which has a booth every year and offers both outpatient and residential substance abuse treatment programs for women.
If we can plant the seed today, hopefully down the road that helps them start thinking about getting treatment, McClelland said. With substance abuse, people may not go get treatment the day they get the information. But when they are ready, we want them to know were here.
Poole said she would be in attendance next year, too but perhaps in a different role.
By this time next year, Id like to be a volunteer here, she said. Thats how Id like to come back.