Deep Bow of Appreciation to the many community organizations that made the 2015 Project Homeless Connect and Veteran Stand Down a Success: City of Iowa City UI College of Nursing Abbe Center PATH Abbe Center IHH Abbe Center A2C DVIP IC Free Med. Clinic IA Food Bank Association Iowa Legal Aid Johnson Co. General Assistance Johnson Co. Public Health Crisis Center TSPA (the salon professional academy) Great Clips UAY HACAP Stand Up Wireless / CJ’s Cells Prelude IC American Legion Auxiliary I-Smile (part of Johnson County Public Health) ICCSD (Iowa City Community School District) Shelter House NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) One Ancient Hope ICPD (Iowa City Police Department) Housing Authority VNA (Visiting Nurse Association) Planned Parenthood Salvation Army Kirkwood CC Compensated Work Therapy Hoefer Law Firm HUD-VASH IC VA Community Employment Coordinator IC VA Suicide Prevention IC VA Women's Clinic Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Iowa WORKS (Vet representative) Johnson County Veteran Affairs Operation Home-SSVF
Project Homeless Connect and Veteran Stand Down 2015-- by Yeshe Tsomo
One hundred thirty-one people attended the Project Homeless Connect and Veteran Stand Down on November 19th at the A. Lee Recreation Center. The annual event is held during the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week -- November 14 – 22-- to respond to the needs of those facing poverty. The participation of those who showed up to serve was also strong. Beyond the strength in numbers there was also a pervasive sense of good will and warmth. When I arrived I walked into the huge empty Social Hall with its wall of windows facing the parking lot. To the left was a long row of 18 foot tables, folded in the middle and steepled into a tent-like pose. Across the room from those was the tiny bare stage. It was room ready for the good day of service that was to follow.
The first to show up was the American Legion. They walked in with their arms loaded down with things to give away— blankets, bags, pants, hats, socks, gloves, bags, shirts and more. They brought boxes and boxes of things to give. Eventually they would create a sprawling display of wares that took up an entire front corner of the room. Jessica Beck, the event coordinator, showed up with the master lay out plan, signs for the tables, parking permits and a vengeance for order. She directed traffic as others arrived. The whole layout unfolded beautifully. Emily Hurst, another member of the planning committee and I were to staff the registration table. Equipped with pens, wrist bands, and a stack of registration forms we set up a table to the left of the entrance. As we prepared a long line of would-be attendees formed along the stairway railing in front of the Social Hall. Registration began just before 10 am. Folks stepped up to the table and filled out the forms we provided. We gave purple bands for civilians and green bands for the veterans.
Eighty-three participants completed an exit survey which gave the event organizers a fairly accurate picture of who we helped and how. Information gathered from the survey will also help organizers plan for next year. The demographics tell us that in most ways Iowa City and its surrounding communities are a microcosm of the national realities of homelessness. For example a significant number of people experiencing homelessness are employed, 34% were veterans and 33% were women. What I found surprising is that more than half those in attendance were not homeless and the most common reasons listed for attendance were clothing, food and housing in that order. The overwhelming majority live in Iowa City, with only about 7% coming from Coralville and about 5% living in other places in Johnson County.
Perhaps the biggest change compared to last year’s event is that this year 46 veterans participated. This represents a 50% increase. In the post event debrief organizers speculated that the change might be a result of better publicity and outreach.