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Event connects homeless with help

Feb. 12, 2014 @ 11:36 PM

HUNTINGTON — When a person becomes homeless, they have a myriad of needs and all too often don’t know where to begin to get them, said John Hampton, who works with Prestera Center to connect the homeless with services.

On Wednesday, they only had to make one stop to get connected with many services that could benefit them during Project Homeless Connect. It was a four-hour event at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center, during which more than 40 agencies and business set up booths to help link the homeless with resources such as addiction rehabilitation, housing, employment services, educational opportunities, health care, veterans services, seniors services and much more.

The event — which usually draws about 200 people — was sponsored locally by the Cabell Huntington Wayne Continuum of Care as part of a national initiative of the National Council of Mayors.

Goodwill was on hand with clothing. Medical students from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine did health screenings. Sean Ward of Sharper Image Salon and Morgan Workman of Hot Headz and Cool Nailz gave out dozens of free haircuts.

“I like to give back. Everyone needs help sometimes,” said Workman as she clipped Herbie Blake’s hair into shape.

The event is a great way to plug people into services immediately instead of them going through the slower channels toward help, said Breanne Akers, assistant director for the Harmony House.

Huntington usually maintains a homeless population of between 200 and 300 people, and “for the most part, our homeless population is downtown,” Akers said. “So it makes sense to have this downtown.”

Jimmy Humphrey, who has been staying at the Huntington City Mission during these bitterly cold weeks of winter, got some hot chili and a free blanket on Wednesday. He said Project Homeless Connect was great.

“I think it’s actually an awesome, awesome deal,” he said. “I’ve received some information from the MU free clinic and The Healing Place of Huntington. I’m an alcoholic... and I really need help.”

Dr. Chuck Clements is the medical director for Marshall Medical Outreach, a volunteer program through which medical students offer free health care to the homeless monthly. They meet in the parking lot of Trinity Episcopal Church the fourth Saturday morning of each month.

The program, which is organized and carried out by the medical students, has grown in the past three years and helps to get the homeless treatment they need and integrated into the health care system, Clements said.

“We go to them, instead of expecting them to come into the system,” he said. “This is a good place (for the homeless) to look around, find what’s available and go use the services.”

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