Some things are easy to take for granted in life: a place to live, a job, a driver’s license or state-issued ID, and even a birth certificate. Think about what life would be like if you didn’t have any of these things. It’s hard to imagine, but men and women live this way on any given day in Maricopa County. Many don’t know where to turn to get housing.
Recently, Valley of the Sun United Way’s Project Connect was at Maricopa County’s Human Services Campus near downtown Phoenix. Project Connect happens every six weeks to help those living on the street or on the brink of homelessness. The goal is to get people living on the street back on their feet by connecting them to much-needed services in one location. This Project Connect focused on helping individuals get identification, birth certificates, and information on securing their own apartment. Volunteers fanned out across St. Vincent De Paul and the Lodestar Day Resource Center to help those needing permanent housing and identification.
“It’s really great to have MVD (Motor Vehicle Department) here because they’re onsite,” says long-time United Way volunteer Phyllis. “We normally would be shuttling people from our Project Connect out to an MVD site. Having them here is really great for everyone. They don’t have to travel. They get in nice and quick. It’s really great.”
“We’re working on getting them any documentation they need to take the next step and find an apartment, sign a lease,” says Amy Schwabenlender, United Way Vice President of Community Impact.
She says the housing assessment makes a list, identifying people who’ve been frequently using the overflow homeless shelter. “It’s using the housing first philosophy which is about meeting people where they’re at, stabilizing them in housing first. And then through our partners that do rapid-rehousing or permanent supportive housing -- the supportive services piece – it’s those services that are individualized to work with each person and move them forward into greater stability. If someone can go back to work, what do they need to do next to get a job?”
Jacque was helping Joseph. “This is the first gentleman I’ve worked with and mostly it’s the identification…he lost his birth certificate, his ID, and you need to have that.”
As Joseph was filling out paperwork, he says his goal is to get “on a waiting list for better housing.” Currently, he’s spending the night at the temporary overflow shelter. He wants to find a job. Joseph says he has knowledge in “landscaping, cooking, and cleaning.”
Project Connect volunteer Lisa was helping Emma. “We filled out some paperwork and I asked Emma what she needed.”
Emma is living on the streets. This is the first time she asked United Way for help. She says, “I’m trying to get enough help until my husband comes back next month.”
She says Project Connect is very well run and is the most helpful program being offered to the homeless in Arizona. “This is absolutely one of the best programs set up for people to come to get those services and I want to be part of it.”
United Way Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Timna Guerchon appreciates the Project Connect volunteers from Wells Fargo, Chamberlain College of Nursing, and Maricopa Community College District. It’s no doubt, a rewarding experience. “So, people find this very awe inspiring and very rewarding.”
Sue says, “That’s why I keep coming back, and coming back and coming back. And the staff at United Way is absolutely the best.”
To sign up to become a Project Connect volunteer, go to vsuw.org/volunteer