Project Homeless Connect Serves Up Hot Meals, New Clothes

Through Project Homeless Connect, people living on the streets or in shelters can tap into goods and services and walk away with a new set of clothes, hot food and a haircut during the annual event.

On Friday, the eighth annual Project Homeless Connect, sponsored by V.I. Department of Human Services and United Way, at the Rudolph Schulterbrandt Market Building on St. Croix drew almost 200 people and more than 80 volunteers.

“Not everyone is chronically homeless, but we don’t turn anyone away,” said Rosemary Sumas, lead volunteer trainer and executive director of the V.I. Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities Inc., or Dial-A-Ride.

Some of the PHC clients are at risk of becoming homeless through job loss, home foreclosure or other misfortune, Sumas added.

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The community volunteers, including government employees who were given the day off to participate, guided each man and woman through the area as they accessed health screenings, got a picture ID, picked up free toiletries, had their hair cut and sat down for a hot meal.

Anton Doos, chef/teacher of the cooking class at St. Croix Educational Complex, said the University of the Virgin Islands donated a cow and other items for the meal. His students cooked and served, alongside volunteers from Catholic Charities, between 300 and 400 meals, he estimated.

Health screenings through the V.I. Health Department and Frederiksted Health Care Inc. included HIV, glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure tests, and more than two-dozen people took flu shots.

Each participant received a new pair of shoes, new underwear and a selection of used clothes donated by the Edouard Foundation, Lutheran Social Services and other individuals and organizations.

Barbers and hair stylists from Gem’s Beauty, Professional Cuts and Kerry’s were busy throughout the day.

“I appreciate giving the cuts more than they appreciate getting them,” Victor Petersen, of Professional Cuts, said.

Sen. Terrance “Positive” Nelson donated his skill with the shears and razor again this year.

The American Red Cross, the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix and Sen. Kurt Vialet’s representatives handed out toiletries, soaps and washcloths. Vialet has collected personal sized items from his and other senators’ hotel stays for the event.

The Department of Mental Health offered literature and referrals for mental health and substance abuse services. Legal Services of the Virgin Islands and the Women’s Coalition also recommended services for help with legal matters and domestic violence.

The demographic information, including services utilized, has been recorded in the Homeless Management Information System database by Methodist Outreach volunteers for the last seven years. The information is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from organizations receiving federal monies.

Throughout the day, there were a lot of smiling faces. The volunteers enjoyed their part as much as the participants enjoyed getting a new lease on life.

“We have a very, very great, wonderful community here — a day when you really are your brother’s keeper,” Sumas said.

Other participating agencies included The Village Partners in Recovery and several faith-based organizations.

The event will take place on St. John next Friday and Dec. 4 on St. Thomas. For more information or to volunteer, call United Way at 340-774-3185.

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