Community Connect impacts about 100 homeless individuals
There was one mission of Project Community Connect, and that was to connect those facing homelessness with the services that can get them up on their feet.
On Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., about a 100 people that consider themselves homeless or in need of assistance visited Saint Joseph Church for Project Community Connect. Nearly 40 agencies and local organizations had booths with representatives ready to help.
“How can I not try to improve my life when I look around this room and see so many people willing to help me?” said Arnie Robles. “There’s no excuse for me now.”
Robles considers himself homeless and came to the event to seek some assistance.
After struggling with destructive relationships, drugs and alcohol abuse, Robles continues to try and improve his life. He maintains that it is easier with a support system like that at Project Community Connect.
When asked how the event helps the homeless, he smiled. “Look over at that booth handing out dental supplies. Would anybody want to interview a man with stinky breath?” he laughed. “Now look over at those hygiene bags. Would anybody want to hire a man that smelled horrible? You get the picture.”
Robles said that he had work lined up in a neighboring community to start soon. He admits that it is not always easy staying positive and sober, but his heart is in his future.
He could not say enough about the people in local agencies that have helped him get back on his feet time and time again.
“Now this situation is not about me anymore. When I can’t lift my spirits for myself, I lift my spirits for them,” he said about people like Gina Shepherd of Salvation Army and Joleen Sherrets of the Hospitality House.
The basement area of Saint Joseph Church was full of representatives of agencies ready to help. Agencies like Transitional Housing, Hospitality House, Crisis Resource Center, the Salvation Army and the Steele County Food Shelf among many were present.
Karla Tull of Steele County Employment Services is the main coordinator of Project Community Connect. She said that this year is the 8th annual community connect.
With a total of 38 booths, Tull said that the event has certainly grown over the years. It has also grown in the amount of individuals that seek help from the event. She said that in the community facing homelessness, news travels fastest via word of mouth rather than social media or news sources.
Karla said that the need is strong for agencies that help homeless and programs like Project Community Connect.
“People don’t realize that there are homeless in Steele County,” said Tull. “They aren’t on park benches and in the public eye like they are in big cities. They are more hidden here, but they are here.”
A hot meal, a government aided cell phone, bus passes, handmade quilts and hygiene items were among many of the giveaways collected by those in need at the event.
Flu shots, dental screenings and HIV testing were also being provided. Tull said that by far the most popular service is the free haircuts.
We’ve got a handful of hairstylists that give up their time to give free haircuts,” said Tull. “The haircuts are huge! Having a haircut just makes you feel better.”
David Gregory was one of many to receive a haircut from Sandie Kubista at Project Community Connect. It was Kubista’s fifth year giving haircuts at the event: “It just makes you feel good to give what you can.”
“Self-confidence helps you more than anything in life,” remarked Kubista.
Gregory had a few months of growth and chose a cut that was longer on top with a tighter cut on the sides of his head. “Having a haircut makes me feel better about myself,” he said. “She [Kubista] is making me look clean cut. See, I’m looking for a job.”
Due to experience with gang lifestyle, he hit a “rough spot” in his life, but he is working on earning his GED. He seeks a career utilizing his talents in writing, communications, or public speaking.
Many others felt empowered after leaving Project Community Connect. As Robles said, “How can I not feel empowered after this?”