Edmonton’s sixth Homeless Connect took place today the Shaw Conference Centre. The biannual event brings together service agencies, businesses, and volunteers to provide a range of free services to homeless people or people at risk of becoming homeless. Guests can get a haircut, pick up a pair of work boots, learn how to get identification, eat lunch, and much, much more. Today was the fifth time that Sharon and I have volunteered at the event. Preliminary numbers for today put the number of volunteers at more than 300 and the number of guests served at 1409.
This year I was assigned the task of being a guide (I’ve done registration the last few times). Guides are responsible for taking a guest from registration to their first service. Along the way I tried to point out where all of the major services were located, suggesting that they check out clothing, dental, and haircuts first (as they are always the busiest). I found that being a guide was a great way to see all of the services, but it wasn’t quite as enjoyable for connecting with guests. The conversation you have at the registration table is much better for that.
Every guest receives a kit filled with essential items like socks, toothpaste, and deodorant.
Work boots are always a popular item at Homeless Connect. They go quickly!
The biggest line-ups today seemed to be for haircuts, always a popular service.
I was a little surprised to hear that more than 1400 people went through the doors today. That’s higher than it has been at previous Homeless Connect events, and is especially high for a spring event (the fall event tends to be busier because it is cold outside). Given that the number of homeless people decreased last year (at least according to the count) I would have expected a corresponding drop in attendance at Homeless Connect. Maybe there were more people at risk of being homeless there today.
I’m always struck by the social aspect of Homeless Connect. It’s an important opportunity for old friends to reconnect.
If you’d like to volunteer for the next Homeless Connect, scheduled for October, you can learn more here. Stay tuned to Homeless Connect Edmonton on Twitter for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from today here.
2 thoughts on “Homeless Connect Edmonton 6”
Thanks for volunteering, and for posting about the event.
A few notes about the expectation that attendance might drop (disclosure – I work for Homeward Trust):
– The number of guests (~1400) is still below the number of people identified as homeless in the 2010 Count (2421).
– You are correct with the inference that a lot of people are still at risk, and in need of the services provided at Homeless Connect. At both the May and October 2010 events, 51% of guests identified themselves as homeless. Of the 49% who do have housing, 39% have been homeless in the past. There was a variance between the two events regarding how many people felt their current living situation was threatened – 56% responded yes in May, 40% in October.
– What does all this mean? For one, the more established the event becomes, the more word is getting out to those in need. This is a good thing. Second, we do expect to see a decrease in attendance at some point. It’s important to keep in mind that we’re only 2 years into the 10 year effort to end homelessness. We’re seeing success, but there are still a lot of people – homeless at the moment or not – who need the services provided at Homeless Connect.