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Project to Assist Homeless People Needs Volunteers

Volunteers are needed for the island’s third Project Homeless Connect, an all-out, one-day community effort, working directly with the homeless population to give them hands-on help.

This year’s program will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 16 at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center.

United Way co-sponsors the day with the Department of Human Services, and donations of time and services ranging from massages to financial-planning advice come courtesy of other government agencies, not-for-profits and a number of private businesses.

The previous two projects have been an encouraging success, according to Kim Moholland, United Way Project Homeless Connect committee chairman.

"This year is particularly critical with people losing jobs," he said. "The reality is that the economy is dictating more people will become homeless."

Each year, as the word gets out, the day helps different clients, he said.

"Our records show that more than 50 percent each year are not repeat clients," he said. "Actually, the majority of our clients are not what we call chronic homeless. Many of them are bunking up with family members who have a difficult time caring for them."

It takes some effort to reach the people who are struggling the most.

"We are trying to find a way to get the chronic homeless, the people you see on the streets, those with behavior and health problems," Moholland said. "We are trying to find a way to get them to trust us and to come in so we can be of help, so they can use our services."

The sheer number of services offered boggles the mind, including a haircut, massage, blood sugar and cholesterol testing, flu shots, legal services, financial advice, employment assistance, vision care, showers and meals.

"This year we are doing what we call vignettes," Moholland said. "We are getting professionals from commercial banking, and other professions to do 10-to-15-minute presentations on how to, for instance, open a bank account, obtain a formal ID, or maybe how to write a resume."

Volunteers with current health cards are needed to serve breakfast and lunch. Especially needed are volunteers to serve as escorts, taking the clients around the center, to show them the services available to them.

The clients first fill out paperwork giving some indication of their needs before a volunteer escorts them. To volunteer, call United Way at 774-3185.

Donations of clothing and hygiene supplies are also needed, Moholland said. The drop-off point for clothing is at Ebenezer Gardens apartments across from the Knud Hansen Complex.

Donations for hygiene kits — bug spray, combs, toothpaste and brushes, toiletries — should be dropped off at Yellow Cedar in Anna’s Retreat across from O’Henry Dry Cleaners. The deadline for donations is Oct. 5.

Volunteers are asked to attend one training session. Training will be held on the following days and at the following locations:

— Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the United Way, Nisky Center

— Friday, Oct. 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Human Services Head Start Building in Sugar Estate

— Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the United Way, Nisky Center

— Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the United Way, Nisky Center

— Friday, Oct. 16, from 8 to 8:30 a.m. at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center

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