Salt Lake seeks 500 volunteers for ‘one-stop shop’ event for homeless

Adam Fondren, Deseret News

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announcing Project Homeless Connect at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. On Oct. 6, Salt Lake City will hold the first annual Project Homeless connect at the Salt Palace Convention Center, where many volunteer services are available to the expected turnout of a thousand people experiencing homelessness.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rachel Santizo said she was once a heroin addict, "lost on the streets," before she found the help she needed.

"I remember living on the streets. I remember dumpster diving. I remember feeling invisible. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know anything," Santizo said.

But Monday, joined by Salt Lake City leaders, Santizo was eager to highlight a new way for Utahns to help people like the woman who she once was.

"It’s because of organizations that give back that I’m able to stand here today," she said.

Now Santizo is a member of the steering committee to help organize an Oct. 6 event called Project Homeless Connect. Salt Lake leaders said they hope the day becomes an annual tradition of providing a "one day, one-stop shop" for the state’s most needy.

At the event, people experiencing homelessness can get hair cuts, immunizations, medical and dental care, substance abuse counseling, library cards, housing services, employment assistance, legal and financial assistance and more.

But not without help.

In preparation for the event, Mayor Jackie Biskupski called on residents and businesses throughout the state to help fill the 500 volunteer slots needed to host the event at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

"I hope everyone in this city and across the valley will consider doing what they can to make Oct. 6 a day of hope in Salt Lake City," the mayor said.

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The event, expected to serve up to 1,000 people experiencing homelessness, is part of a national movement that has taken place in San Francisco, Denver, Washington D.C., and other cities.

“Like everything we are doing to address homelessness in our state, Project Homeless Connect will be successful only through true collaboration and partnership,” Biskupski said. “Project Homeless Connect will rely on the expertise of service providers, the generosity of financial sponsors, as well as the hundreds of people who will make an individual commitment to volunteer on Oct 6.”

The Salt Palace Convention Center is donating its space for the event.

Mike Akerlow, deputy director of community and neighborhoods for Salt Lake City said 50 to 60 different services will be available to people experiencing homelessness or those who might be at risk of losing their homes.

"This is much more than an information fair," Akerlow said. "This is a day when people will be able to get immediate assistance and access to ongoing services."

Other services include bike repair from Bike Collective and Contender Bicycle; computer skills and services from the Salt Lake City Public Library, veterinary services, wound care and naloxone services from the Salt Lake City Fire Department, family planning services from Planned Parenthood, substance use disorder counseling from the Community Connection Center, credit repair and more, according to Akerlow.

He said organizers will work with service providers and begin to reach out to people experiencing homelessness in the weeks leading up to the event. Transportation to the Salt Palace will be provided on the day of the event.

Project Homeless Connect is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6.

Those interested in volunteering can find more information at www.phcslc.org.

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