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Volunteers, Donations Needed for Project Homeless Connect, Homeless Count

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks at a press conference about Project Ho...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks at a press conference about Project Homeless Connect, Jan. 18, 2017.

Project Homeless Connect organizers said Wednesday they're expecting many more attendees at the annual one-day resource fair next week at Golden Hall, and called for San Diegans to step forward to volunteer and donate new or gently used items.

More than 1,200 homeless people seeking assistance showed up at last year's event. Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe's Villages, said around 1,500 are expected at this year's edition, scheduled for next Wednesday.

The projection in part stems from the apparently larger population of people living on San Diego streets, especially downtown.

"The numbers that we serve in this event have grown every year," said Richard Gentry, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission.

"It could be that the numbers are growing downtown, it could be that more of the homeless are being concentrated downtown versus the past, and it could be that the word about Project Homeless Connect has gotten out sufficiently that there is communication among the homeless to come partake of the services here," Gentry said. "I hope it's the latter."

He said it makes the need for donations greater than ever. Among the requested items are sweatshirts and hoodies sizes large and up, reusable ponchos, small- and medium-sized blankets, new or gently used closed-toed shoes, new or gently used backpacks, and new non-prescription reading glasses.

Donations can be dropped off at Golden Hall, in the downtown Civic Center complex, on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Councilman Chris Cate said organizers have already received donations of 7,000 pairs of socks from the San Clemente-based apparel firm Stance, 1,000 hygiene kits from the Downtown Fellowship and 500 jackets from the San Diego Rescue Mission.

While numerous volunteers are already signed up, Councilman Chris Ward said 130 volunteers are still needed for Tuesday and Wednesday. Information is available online at the San Diego Housing Commission's website at sdhc.org, he said.

A second event related to homelessness — the annual tally of those living on the streets or shelters in the region — is scheduled for two days later, Jan. 27.

The count helps quantify the scope of the problem and determines the amount of federal and state funding that comes to area governments and nonprofits.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said nearly 1,500 volunteers are scheduled to count the homeless in the early morning hours that day, but more are needed, especially in the North County.

"People who are willing to walk the streets, peak in the canyons and check out the parks, and find the homeless people wherever they might be, including in our shelters," Roberts said.

Information on the annual survey of the homeless is available on the website of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless at rtfhsd.org.

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