More than 1,800 homeless individuals and families in need crowded into the Colorado Convention Center for Project Homeless Connect (PHC) 12, making this the largest attendee turnout ever at a PHC event in Denver.
At the free resource fair – which connects those in need to a variety of community services – volunteers were paired with people in need to help them navigate a wide array of services, including health exams, legal aid, public assistance, mental health services, clothing, and shelter and housing information. A dozen individuals were hired on the spot at the employment section, and many more will be considered for positions, according to Nancy Rider of Bayaud Enterprises, a Denver-based nonprofit agency that provides job placement services and training opportunities to homeless individuals.
Service providers at a diabetes testing station checked the blood sugar levels of multiple attendees. After testing one woman, providers asked that she immediately be seen by a health professional after she reported feeling lightheaded and her blood sugar level soared off the charts.
Mike, a 53-year-old who lost his home two weeks ago after losing his job, told a volunteer that he spent the past few nights “crying into my coffee cup at a coffee shop” over his situation. “I never thought this would be me – that’d I’d be homeless,” he said. Mike was provided with food stamps and shelter information, along with information about where to find vision care and health insurance.
“Our volunteers were incredible – I was deeply moved by the care and compassion they showed with all of the individuals at the event,” said Bennie Milliner, executive director of Denver’s Road Home. “It was exciting to see the hopefulness of people. There was no bitterness, just gratefulness that someone was there to lend a hand.”
“There was one woman who was hesitant to get her haircut. I told her she was beautiful either way…she was hesitant at first, but then decided to get it cut. Afterwards, she was so full of smiles and told me that we were great people for giving our time. It was a very rewarding experience,” Tami Tapia, a volunteer said.
PHC 12 was coordinated by Denver’s Road Home, the City and County of Denver, Mile High United Way and several community partners. It was sponsored by Delta Dental, Bank of America and Xerox.