The first annual Project Homeless Connect was held at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday, August 2. This event was co-sponsored by Baltimore City, United Way, The Journey Home, and KPMG. The Weinberg Foundation is involved with Baltimore’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness (The Journey Home), so I participated in this event along with two graduate interns, Rachele Benedetto and Katelyn Lammie. There were about 1,000 college students and faculty from across the United States who were in Baltimore for their annual accounting conference. The organizers estimated that there were about 1,000 clients who attended as well.
Concourse A of M&T was filled with social service providers of all types – nearly all of the organizations in the Baltimore area serving low-income and homeless individuals and families were on hand to assist.
Before the doors opened, we assembled hygiene kits and put forms on hundreds of clipboards. Once the event started at 11, each client was paired with “guides.” We were paired with an older gentleman named Lloyd, and we stayed with him from 11:30 until after 3 PM to achieve the following:
- Renewed Maryland ID that had recently expired (MVA had its mobile unit on site). Process took about 45 minutes (and not long after we finished, the line for MVA had well over 100 people in it).
- Talked to Legal Aid about Lloyd’s rejection from a senior housing program. He is currently in permanent supportive housing and is 62 so qualifies for senior subsidized housing. The rejection was due to his credit report and his criminal record. Legal Aid told him to come to its walk-in clinic and he plans to go within the next few days. They told him to bring his credit report. The criminal record may continue to be a barrier. He spent 5 years in federal prison, and was released about 2 years ago at which time he was briefly homeless before being placed into the Single Room Occupancy where he currently lives.
- Went to a community credit counseling service for information about getting his credit report. They were not able to connect their computers as they had planned, but he got the website that he will use to print his report. He can access a computer at his residence or a public library.
- Ate lunch (boxed lunches were available for everyone). During lunch, we learned more about Lloyd’s life. He was once married, and has two grown children and five grandchildren. He said that he just wants a higher quality of life for himself and is eager to move into an apartment with more privacy than he has now. He seemed grateful for what he has, and acknowledged that many people are worse off than he is.
- Completed vision screening (waited in line about 45 minutes).
- Completed HIV testing (waited about 20 minutes)
- Went to Food Bank booth and got a box of vegetables.
- Picked up a small hygiene bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and socks.
- Went back for HIV test results.
At the end of the day, we exchanged hugs and wished each other well. Spending four hours together broke down barriers and made each of us care about the others’ circumstances. Multiply that by 2,000 people and it’s a pretty powerful equation!