An event aimed at helping Contra Costa County’s burgeoning homeless population is expected to draw nearly 1,000 people to the Richmond Municipal Auditorium Wednesday, according to organizers.
Project Homeless Connect 7 is a one-day gathering of various health service and homeless assistance providers for the county’s homeless.
Project Homeless staples like food, medical and dental care, DMV identification card forms, employment services and placement, mental health and drug counseling referrals, and even haircuts and wheelchair repairs will all be available Wednesday.
Organizers say the event has become a big draw both because of the increasing need and the array of services it provides. “The idea is to connect homeless people with a one-stop-shop that has the services they need,” said Cynthia Belon, behavioral health director for the Contra Costa County Department of Health Services.
The event will also feature Contra Costa County’s first ever “Clean Slate Clinic,” which provides people convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors a chance to have the offense erased from their criminal record.
Attendees who have been pre-screened will meet with a Superior Court judge and several attorneys at the event, Belon said. At the meeting, the judge and lawyers will review each case before deciding whether to file paperwork to expunge the record “Forty or so cases are going to our Clean Slate court,” Belon said.
This year’s event marks a return to Richmond, where the first Project Homeless event was held in 2006, Belon said. In the intervening years the event has been held in other cities, including Concord and Antioch.
The size and composition of the turnout has also changed over time. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of families with children and in homeless transitional youth in the 18 to 24 range,” Belon said.
The first event in Richmond drew fewer than 400 people, Belon said.
“Our turnout has more than doubled,” Belon said, “which is consistent with what we’re hearing from related agencies throughout the county, which is that demand for homeless services has nearly doubled across the board.”
A 2009 Contra Costa County report estimated that about 9,000 people were homeless countywide on any given night, up from about 5,000 in 2006. The economy has played a major role in the rise, Belon said, as persistently high unemployment has pushed many families past the brink.
The biggest source of funding for local homeless services is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides the county about $9 million to annually. But the funding level has been largely unchanged despite the increased need for services in recent years.
“Our capacity hasn’t grown, our resources haven’t grown, but the demand has grown,” Belon said.
But other forms of support for the event have grown, including private and governmental donations, Belon said. County Supervisor John Gioia is expected to attend and welcome the attendees, and Chevron Corp. and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority are two of the newest sponsors of the event. Other contributors the offices of State Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.
Chevron Corp. donated $8,000 to the event, according to corporate spokesperson Melissa Hollander.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the answer to the area’s persistent homelessness begins with a more progressive tax code at the state and national level to fund more affordable housing and social services. Short of that, McLaughlin said, state and county efforts like Project Homeless must play a role in alleviating the problem.
“It is always exciting to host the Project Homeless Connect event in Richmond,” McLaughlin said. “So we can reach out to individuals with services that will give them the dignity they deserve.”
- Anyone over the age of 18 is encouraged to volunteer for this event. Volunteer
registration forms are available online at
www.cchealth.org/services/homeless/ or by calling
925-313-6124. Completed forms must be received by June 10. Email forms to
firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to 925-313-6761.
volunteers will be accepted the day of the event.www.cchealth.org/services/homeless/
Project Homeless Connect 7 is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 15.
Volunteers are needed 12 to 5 p.m. June 14 and 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 15
Volunteers are asked for at least a half-day service.
Project Homeless Connect 7 will be held at the Richmond Memorial
Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Street, Richmond, CA 95804.
- Find out more about homeless services in Contra Costa at www.cchealth.org/services/homeless