On January 29, 2008, 39 agencies, community volunteers and businesses came together to provide to our homeless county residents or those at risk of being homeless a one-stop shop to needed human services and goods. Services included legal assistance, substance abuse, information on housing, mental health, medical services, food and clothing. Most of the services and goods were available at the main site of Manna House, located at 54 High Street, Newton while free haircuts and showers were being offered at neighboring Sussex County Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Originating in San Francisco in 2004, the Project Homeless Connect model has been used by over 130 cities across the country. Because this model has been so successful, San Francisco holds this event on a bi-monthly basis. Project Homeless Connect events took place in every county in the state during the winter season of 2006/2007, hosting a total of 44 sites. According to Monarch Housing, “New Jersey is the first state in the country to host a statewide coordinated Project Homeless Connect event at 44 different sites.” The Project Homeless Connect model has been successful and continues to be replicated. The long-term goal is to move people into permanent housing and eliminate homelessness.
This year at Sussex County’s event, 94 residents attended, resulting in a total of 190 referrals being issued from the participating human service agencies. Some of the successful outcomes include 38 of the 94 residents inquired about housing, 30 individuals were given a free flu shot, 26 received shelter information, 14 received legal assistance, 10 residents inquired about employment information and 9 residents completed permanent housing applications. Due to the generosity and outpouring of the community, county residents in need were able to receive winter coats, warm clothing, food kits, prescription discount cards, phone cards, thermometers, can openers, paper products and laundry detergent among many other goods. Each resident was given homeless resource cards and a resource directory which lists a multitude of county services. Sussex County hopes to make this event an annual one and will continue to address the problem of homelessness in our community.