Project Homeless Connect comes back for fifth year

Every homeless person who walks into the Juneau Arts & Culture Center Tuesday can leave with a new haircut, full belly, filled-out Permanent Fund Dividend application, updated voter registration and much more.

It’s all a part of “Project Homeless Connect,” an annual event that aims to connect Juneau’s homeless to services and resources available to them in the capital city.

“We’re all putting our resources together collectively, and we’re saying, ‘Here’s what we got,’” said Tamara Rowcroft, one of the organizers of the event and the co-chair of the Juneau Coalition of Housing and Homelessness. “And we’ve got a pretty great package of services and resources.”

Representatives from 35 groups and organizations will be on hand at the different kiosks inside the JACC during the event, which is taking place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Some of the services include housing assistance, mental health services, legal services, veteran support, voter registration, PFD applications, birth certificates and other forms of ID.

When attendants enter the JACC on Tuesday, they’ll first be invited to a side room to have coffee and fill out a survey to help assess each person’s circumstances and needs.

Inside the main room, they can receive clothing collected by United Way of Southeast Alaska, visit the different kiosks and have a complimentary hot breakfast or lunch at a dining area. Abby’s Kitchen & Catering is catering the event.

Next door to the JACC at the Zach Gordon Youth Center, stylists who have volunteered their time will provide haircuts while those wait in line for their turn can fill out their PFD application. Those who don’t have an Alaska ID can go to the DMV from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. by transportation the event has provided.

“We can really refer out and do more what I call wrap around services for people,” Rowcroft said of the event. “… A lot of these programs help the homeless make the connections they need.”

The Juneau Coalition of Housing and Homelessness is sponsoring the project, and they obtained several grants to provide the funding to rent the JACC, pay for the catering and cover other expenses. This marks the event’s fifth year.

Some 200 people attended last year. Juneau’s homeless population is estimated to be around 500 to 600.

“What’s really scary, too, is we don’t see a lot of repeats, so it’s like a constant problem. The clientele changes every year,” said Shari Partin, JCHH’s other co-chair. She paused and considered after a moment, “We do have a few repeats.”

Rowcroft echoed the sentiment and said the idea of the first event was to help the chronically homeless.

“Basically, living in cars, living on the streets,” Rowcroft said. “I think there is … a group that we miss who don’t feel comfortable being in these kinds of circumstances. Groups we don’t capture a lot for this event are adolescents and school-aged kids, so that’s why there’s sort of a separate connection we try to make for adolescent and for school-aged kids through the school district cause we want to try to pick those numbers up.”

Also frequently absent from the event are those who do not consider themselves homeless.

“I had a guy in yesterday — he’s staying with friends, he doesn’t have his own place, he’s looking for work and he was like, ‘I don’t really think of myself as homeless.’ And I said you really need to come to this event and get information,” Rowcroft said, emphasizing that any person who thinks they need help from any of the different services should come.

Rowcroft noted that the project not only helps connect the homeless to services they may need, it also helps service providers in different agencies connect with one another.

“We get to all talk to each other,” Rowcroft said. “We get to all work together and learn what the services are and who has access to services, and it allows us to do a better job and helping our clients make those connections as well in the community. … It helps us for future funding, for requests to do more housing and to bring more resources to the community. Before we started doing this we didn’t really know each other because we have these different disciplines.”

Both Partin and Rowcroft said they welcome volunteers, and those with questions should call them at their respective offices at 780-4475 or 780-4500.

• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at clara.miller@juneauempire.com.

KNOW & GO

What: Project Homeless Connect

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier Street

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 26

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

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