MORRIS COUNTY — Project Homeless Connect, a daylong, consumer focused, one-stop event designed to provide an array of resources and support to those experiencing homelessness in our Morris County community, will be held on Thursday, January 24 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 70 Maple Avenue, in Morristown.
An Opening Ceremony is planned for 9:00 a.m. with doors opening at 10:00 a.m. The event runs until 2:00 p.m.
“Project Homeless Connect is a county-wide partnership designed to provide some of our community’s most adversely affected individuals with resources, referrals and support,” said Bob Davison, Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, which is the lead agency coordinating the event.
“It is important for people facing such basic challenges as not having a roof over your head or knowing where your next meal is going to come from to be welcomed and treated with dignity and respect,” he added.
Project Homeless Connect began in 2004, when the city of San Francisco organized a special day dedicated to providing necessary services to the homeless. The Morris County Project Homeless Connect event began in 2008 under the leadership of the Mental Health Association and typically serves about 200 people each year.
Some 43 community-based service providers will participate in the upcoming Morris County event and provide resources free of charge to all who attend. Project Homeless Connect guests can obtain mental health information, substance abuse treatment, health screenings, housing information and veteran’s resources.
Agencies collected donations throughout the year and many goods will be given out at the event including clothing, coats, hygiene products, backpacks, gift cards, food and more. Other services will include free haircuts, skincare with Mary Kay and medical services including free flu shots and health screenings for homeless residents.
“We strongly support this program and also strongly back the efforts by our Human Services team, the Mental Health Association and other nonprofit agencies in Morris County to help county residents find appropriate housing,” said Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, who is the county governing board’s liaison on social services.
“It’s an especially important issue during this time of year, when some of our less-fortunate residents without homes spend bitterly cold nights at our Code Blue warming centers.”
This year Morris County also is launching Everyday Connect, a project that offers a way for services to come to those who need them throughout the year instead of just at one annual event. Service providers will be visiting the Dover and Morristown drop in centers, Edna’s Haven and Our Promise on a rotating basis throughout the year. This will allow homeless individuals to access services at locations they visit daily without an appointment, instead of having consumers seek out services.
A Point in Time Count also will take place during Project Homeless Connect. It is a street and shelter count to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness within Morris County.
In 2018, NJCounts found 9,303 homeless men, women and children (300 in Morris County) in 6,982 households across New Jersey. This number increased by 771 persons, or nine percent, from 2017. Click here for the NJCounts 2018 reports and the Morris County report.
“This count is important to us because it helps us to know how many people are in need. Once we know the homeless population we can create programs to address their needs to lift them out of homelessness,” said Danielle Pera, who is director of the Mental Health Association’s PATH program, which provides direct outreach to homeless individuals.
“In the past, we’ve seen veterans, chronically homeless individuals with undiagnosed medical issues and even entire families take advantage of the resources available during the event. Homelessness is very real and can affect anyone so we hope to send that message and let them know help is available.”
“We may not be able to provide each of our attendees with an immediate solution to their problems, but we can let them know that Morris County is a community with a myriad of available resources and compassionate service providers who are there to assist them, not just on Project Homeless Connect Day, but throughout the year,” Davison said.
To learn more about Project Homeless Connect, residents can contact Danielle Pera at (973) 334-3496.