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'Project Homeless Connect' Opens Doors to Resources

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Robyne
/
KUAC

Helping homeless people get resources they need is the goal of Project Homeless Connect. It is a day-long resource fair this Wednesday at the J.P. Jones Center in south Fairbanks. Project Homeless Connect will be at the J.P. Jones Community Development Centre on 24th Avenue on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You do not have to be homeless to attend.

  

“Inside these we have both toiletries bag, toothbrush,  soap, lotion, all that stuff. And we also have a snacks bag as well.”

Patsy Bernier (Burn-yay) inventories goodie bags to give away this week at Project Homeless Connect. She and her colleagues at the City of Fairbanks Finance Department, put on soup and dessert sales to raise money for the personal hygiene products and more.

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Credit Robyne / KUAC
Goody bags loaded with items purchased by city employees with money they raised from bake sales and a box of hats and scarves are ready to be distributed at Project Homeless Connect.

“We have most of our 32 blankets here; they’re layers of fleece, tied. They’re called tied blankets. We did four different fundraisers here to do it.”

Down the hall from Finance is Mike Sanders’ office. He’s has been the city’s Housing & Homeless Coordinator for almost three years. Every big town in Alaska is doing Project Homeless Connect on the same day so agencies get what’s called a Point in Time count. Sanders is working on Fairbanks’ part.

“We do Project Homeless Connect to bring folks in that we might be missing on our street surveys and encampment outreach. And we usually find a few more folks that we didn’t know about.”

A Point-In-Time count is conducted on the same day in January to give agencies trying to help a clearer picture of what they are dealing with. On this day last year, they counted 197 men, women and children in Fairbanks who had no permanent home. 6 of those folks were veterans.

41 of those were in transitional shelters. 103 were in Emergency Shelters like the Rescue Mission, Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living, or The Door. 53 people had no shelter at all. It was -10°F the day of the 2019 count.

And providers estimate there are another hundred or more who are homeless in the Fairbanks area, but don’t come under the strict definition of homelessness that ignores people living in overcrowding situations or “couch surfers” who crash with friends a few days at a time. Sanders says there is no such thing as a “typical” homeless person.

“About 51 percent of the folks that experience homelessness in Fairbanks don’t have a long-term barrier. They’re underemployed or unemployed; maybe they lost some hours at work and then had a car break down. Next they know, things are starting to snowball out of control.”

“And of course that’s across all races and ethnicities.”

“We also have folks who are chronically homeless. Those folks tend to have some sort of long-term barrier. An addiction or mental illness or both.”

The City of Fairbanks has no budget for the housing office, Sanders’ job is funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust. And a lot of donations have gone into Wednesday’s event also. It starts with food, provided by The Bread Line, and a survey of participants. Shelters, health and mental health providers, dentists, addiction treatment agencies, legal services and family resources will all be at the Jones Center.

“We are also connecting folks to tons of services all at once. Rather than having to have to bounce around town which can be a problem for someone experiencing homelessness. We have all the different services right there in one convenient one-stop-shop.”

?Sanders says one of the most popular services at Project Homeless Connect are the free haircuts donated by Beyond the Mirror salon.

“The only part about Project Homeless Connect is the name, if I could name it, it would be Project Resource Connect, because you don’t have to be homeless to come.”