Edmonton’s third Homeless Connect was held yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre (I wrote about HCE2 here). Over 1100 people attended to receive free services from more than 60 local agencies. Guests could make long distance phone calls, get haircuts, see a dentist, find a winter jacket, and much more all for free. New this time around was supervised child care, increased Aboriginal services, and free photographs! Everyone was served a hot lunch and received a gender-appropriate “goodie bag” too.
“It was a great day. The amount of people and services that come together to support our neighbors is exceptional,” says Joanne Currie, Homeless Connect co-chair and Community Investment Specialist with the United Way. “It’s vital that people dealing with homelessness access these services, and it’s wonderful that they can find these easily, on one day and under one roof.”
There were more than 300 volunteers on hand for the day. Some of us were there all day, while others took either the morning or afternoon shift. Everything seemed much better organized this time around, and there was far less confusion among volunteers about where to be and what to do. It’s great to see that the organizers have acted on feedback from previous events to improve things.
I’m continually amazed at how many volunteers come out for the event. I’m also pleasantly surprised that so many of them are young! I have no idea what the average age of a Homeward Trust volunteer is, but I suspect its lower than the average for most service organizations. It’s great to see young people taking an active role in helping the less fortunate and improving our community.
I worked at registration this time, which I really enjoyed. The line was quite long throughout the morning but definitely slowed down around 1:30pm. As guests arrived, I introduced myself and shook their hand. I then asked them if they wanted to fill out a quick one-page survey (no one that came to my table declined). Usually I’d just ask the questions and fill it out for them. They survey was pretty straightforward but could definitely be streamlined. After the survey guests received a wristband and goodie bag and were on their way!
Once again I was reminded that the primary role of a volunteer at Homeless Connect is to be friendly and to listen, to ensure that all guests have a positive experience. A smile and a few minutes to chat really can make a big difference!
I saw some familiar faces at the event (such as Mayor Mandel helping to serve lunch), and met some new people too, such as Lynn (DandelionV on Twitter).
“I’m very impressed with this event. It’s wonderfully organized,” says first time volunteer Lynn Turnbull. “It’s so wonderful seeing each guest being treated with respect and dignity. I thoroughly enjoyed my day.”