A number of local agencies had representatives on hand at the Blue Cross Arena today, offering to help homeless individuals with everything from legal assistance to job information, haircuts, and substance abuse recovery services.
The ninth annual Project Homeless Connect Rochester is designed to help homeless individuals and families, and those who are at risk of homelessness, find a path toward self-sufficiency
"I know we are given images of what a homeless person is, but if you look around it's largely families, women...that's who's in need," said Jed Metzger, a professor in the social work department at Nazareth College and one of the organizers of the event. Jed was greeting people as they streamed in to the arena.
Ladonna Hurell was there with her five children. She says they are not technically homeless, because they stay at a friend's home. She was looking for someone to help her get an ID card.
"Especially since now you got to pay thirty and forty dollars for birth certificates. A lot of people don't have that to spend on birth certificates. I know I don't."
If you lose your ID or don’t have one, it’s hard to get a job, Metzger said. “And If you don't have proper clothes for a job interview, you're not gonna get that job. If you're using our emergency departments for your primary health care, you're not going to get great health care, because that's not what it's designed for, and it's going to cost all of us money."
Michael King says he has been homeless on and off since 2001. While he says he appreciated the services offered at the arena today, he’d also like to see elected officials do something about the lack of affordable housing.
"I see all these new buildings going up, and it's all for rich people,” he said. “There's nothing for us that we can afford. We get stuck with a room for $400 that has bedbugs, cockroaches, and everything else in it."
King was recently sharing an apartment with a cousin until they had a disagreement and he decided to leave. Homelessness, he said, is what is most familiar to him. “A lot of times, it’s not really an unsafe situation. A lot of the people that are chronically homeless, we all kind of stick together and watch out for each other. We’re like a big community and a big family. Amid the chaos and everything that’s going on, we have a little salvation for ourselves.”
More than 1,200 volunteers - some of them social work students - donated their time at today's event.