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Homeless Look For Help And Hope At Project Homeless Connect


About 600 people with no place to live came to Golden Hall, next to San Diego City Hall, on Wednesday to look for help. One of them was a man named Hollywood, and his story was simple.

About 600 people with no place to live came to Golden Hall, next to San Diego City Hall, on Wednesday to look for help. One of them was a man named Hollywood, and his story was simple.

"I lost my home. I lost my job. I lost my car… everything," he said.

Hollywood was hoping his luck would change at Project Homeless Connect. This was a day-long effort to give homeless people a few things they need to survive on the streets. Donors brought things like clothes, toiletries and rolling suitcases. Hopefully this day would also hook up the homeless with services that can make their lives better. Sister RayMonda Duvall is director of Catholic Charities in San Diego.

"What this event does for the community is have a central focus on homelessness,” she said, “and bring all of the services to one place so that maybe one woman or one man is going to find just the connection they need to move them to the next step.”

The next step? Duvall said maybe that’s permanent housing. Maybe it’s counseling or some free legal help.

On Wednesday, Golden Hall teemed with people and it was lined with temporary booths. I walked past a makeshift clinic where the San Diego Dental Society screened homeless people for dental problems. Folks from the East County Transitional Living Center spoke with people about housing. Legal Aid counseled people about their scrapes with the law. School district reps were there to tell homeless people how they can keep their kids in the same school, even as they move from one shelter to the next.

Cissy Fisher is vice president of the San Diego Housing Commission, which organized this year's event. She said, "Where we missed the boat a little bit is we didn't anticipate so many people would want haircuts. There's a long line for haircuts.”

I asked her about another line that was even longer. Was that for clothes, suitcases or something else? She told me that was the line to get lunch.

I didn't want lunch so I approached the line of men waiting to get haircuts. Several of the guys told me they needed to look more “presentable,” in hopes of landing some kind of job. Everybody's got a story. Bruce Bowman says he became homeless trying to look after a family member.

"Well, I've got a brother who is an alcoholic who also has PTSD,” he said. “He's also got pancreatic cancer. So I'm his caregiver and I have to follow him wherever he makes a go, and that usually puts us off in the streets."

Another man told me he had a home in Arizona but he's homeless after serving jail time in San Diego and not being able to leave, because of his probation. Most people in Golden Hall told me they were looking for jobs and housing. Two men who said they used to be homeless were manning the booth of the East County Transitional Living Center. One of them, Sean Oliver, said the center has vouchers for emergency housing. They also offer a transitional housing program – the “discipleship” program – that lasts 90 days.

"For 90 days, no reading material other than the bible. No telephone calls. No appointments. It's really separating yourself from the world to get yourself in a mind-frame to change your life, to change those patterns," said Oliver.

There are about 4,500 homeless people in the city of San Diego and there's only so much Project Homeless Connect can do for them. Tom Stubberud is one of the co-chairs the project. He said just giving the homeless respite for the day, to let them come inside and have lunch… that's something.

"I'm also amazed at the general community's response,” said Stubberud. “People's hearts are really big and really in the right place, and we get these amazing outpourings of volunteerism and donations.

One of the things people donated was hats... dozens of blue-green, tweed fedoras. They were a popular. So if you see someone in downtown San Diego wearing a tweed fedora, they probably went to Project Homeless Connect.

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