Most folks in Central Oregon have little connection to the region’s homeless community. In fact, some folks aren’t even aware that Central Oregon has a sizable homeless community. For them, last weekend’s well-attended Project Connect event would have been an eye-opening experience. More than 2,500 (yes, two thousand, five hundred) area adults and children attended the event.
Based on a national model known as Project Homeless Connect, the event provides health, social and humanitarian services for people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. It’s community outreach on a massive scale, bringing together government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, schools, volunteers and the private sector. Central Oregonians from Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs were invited to attend the event; free transportation was provided.
Held at the Hooker Creek Event Center at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, the all-day event combined the efforts of 163 community partners and organizations, and more than 800 volunteers (I was there on behalf of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, which was one of the event’s sponsors). Services provided ran the gamut from urgent care medical and dental services to acupuncture, vision exams and women’s health services to haircuts, clothing, food, housing, education, financial services and veterinary care. The result was a sort of organized chaos of activity.
This was my first year to volunteer for Project Connect. It won’t be my last. Before attending the event, I knew the efforts provided here were needed, but I didn’t realize just how great that need is. I also know the efforts here are appreciated — a number of the event attendees expressed their gratitude to me. All in all, it’s not a day I will soon forget.
So my hat’s off to the folks who so successfully pooled this vast network of resources. My only wish would be that next year, there is less of a need for the services provided.
About the Author
Lisa Broadwater, GRI, CDPE, is a Central Oregon-based real estate professional who specializes in listing and selling homes, especially in Sisters, Tumalo, Bend and Redmond.