George Hurt, 58, hasn’t had a dental or health exam in years.
He has heart disease, a bad back and is unemployed he has been so for more than 12 months and lives with a friend because he can’t afford his own place. He’s looking for anyone, anything that can help.
“If there is any assistance I can get, I would be glad to take advantage of it,” Hurt said.
On Saturday, at Hinesville’s first annual Project Homeless Connect at the National Guard Armory, Hurt received exactly what he had been searching for a one-stop shop where he could get a free haircut, employment information and maybe a few free toiletries and health screenings.
“This event is basically to reveal the services that are available to the community and to ensure that the community is aware of the plight of the people around them,” said Kenneth Howard, Hinesville assistant city manager.
More than 30 service organizations, providers, social clubs and businesses packed the main hall, while an estimated 100 volunteers led patrons through a maze of opportunities, including massages, haircuts, facials, glucose checks, eye exams, books, clothing and non-perishable items.
Kissiah Moore, a Savannah Technical College practical nursing instructor, and her staff came prepared to offer 125 cholesterol checks that would normally cost $4.25 per strip used.
“It is important for [attendees] to know what their bodies are doing, so they can take action,” Moore said. “We believe in being involved in the community and doing community projects.”
Howard gave credit to the city’s newly appointed Homeless Prevention Program coordinator, Daisy Jones, for bringing so many people and services together.
“The city has had a homeless prevention program for 11 years,” Howard said, “Just looking at the outpouring of support here is so encouraging. [Jones] has really taken the ball and sprinted with it.”
Howard said he and Jones both hope the city will be able to host Project Homeless Connect annually, but it will depend on grant funding from the Housing of Urban Development.
“This event cost the city $2,000, with an additional $1,000 in donations and in-kind contributions,” Howard said. “Each year the city receives entitlement money from HUD and already this year those funds have been cut 20 percent.”
The city received $271, 000 in entitlement funds from HUD, Howard said, as opposed to the $344,000 received last year.
Still, Howard said, after being amazed at how the city and community pulled together for the first Project Homeless Connect, he is certain the event will continue.
“It is my desire that this will be an annual event,” he said. “We need to make sure we keep [the homelessness issue] at the forefront.”