The city of Hinesville’s Community Development Department held its fourth annual Project Homeless Connect event Saturday at Bradwell Institute.
The event, designed to be a “one-stop shop,” benefited homeless and at-risk residents by providing free haircuts, health screenings, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and information on housing, employment, financial literacy and adult education as well as other services designed to prevent homelessness.
Booths were set up by service providers from the public and private sectors, such as the Liberty County Department of Family and Children Services, Liberty County School System social workers, Amerigroup, Diversity Health Center, Premier Counseling and United Way. Businesses and nonprofits, such as Air Serv, Guardians in Action and Life United Pentecostal, charged the atmosphere with face painting, books and a bouncy house for children. Amerigroup volunteers popped popcorn, while door prizes were awarded throughout the day.
Hinesville Homeless Prevention Program Coordinator Daisy Jones arranged the event, uniting people with more than 30 service providers in one central location.
“We work together throughout the year and come together under one roof to encourage one another, and to celebrate our common vision to prevent homelessness in this community. The strength of the whole community collaborative is why we definitely have made tremendous gains in reducing homelessness over the years,” Jones said. “The atmosphere is festive for a reason. We want people to think self-sufficiency and self-reliance, so we intentionally created this type of atmosphere.”
Project Homeless Connect ran from 9 a.m.-noon with dental services provided Townsend Family Dental, and then from noon-3 p.m., additional booths opened, each offering assistance in various forms. A free lunch was served by volunteers from the Waterfront Church of Richmond Hill. Other exhibitors offered emotional- and mental-health services, back massages and entertainment. The city also set up the “Tied to Success” booth to provide information about the male-empowerment day set for Aug. 23.
“All of our service providers are here to let people know what they do and to give information about what’s available in our community. That’s very important for prevention, and that’s what we’re working here to do,” Jones said. “There are many reasons why people become homeless, and we want to prevent it. It starts with education, financial literacy, awareness and exposure. All of our efforts go into preventing homelessness.”
In addition to the event’s 33 booths staffed by more than 50 service providers, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Liberty County Board of Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard also attended Saturday’s outreach event. Twenty-two volunteers, including the Homeless Prevention Program staff, donated their time and talents, according to Jones.
Jim McIntosh of Liberty Cares Inc., who has worked with the Good Friday Walk for Shelter in Liberty County, stressed the need for prevention.
“The value of this event is really important, seeing as it’s one of the few opportunities where all the groups that have a joint interest in getting something done can come together and actually do it. It also provides direct services to individuals who need it. One of the most difficult things for most individuals who are homeless or in need is that they don’t know where to go. This gives them a starting point,” McIntosh said. “Daisy and her team are only one small group. There are all these other groups that are out there willing to help. Prevention is better than the cure.”