Lenawee Project Connect provides services to county residents all in one location
Lenawee County families and individuals in need often find it a challenge to locate services in the county for help with anything from health to housing. On Wednesday, Jan. 30, Lenawee Continuum of Care and 1Matters in Toledo are sponsoring Lenawee Project Connect from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds. The day is designed to bring services, information, training and resources to those living in a crisis situation.For one day, county residents can get information and help from local service and non-profit organizations all in the same location. This year with the event happening at the fairgrounds, it has tripled in size.Currently, 50 vendors will participate. Time and travel, often a problem for those in need, are eliminated with the one-stop gathering. Everything is free and accessible after filling out a survey.“Everything we’re providing there is going to be free,” said Lisa Riley of Family Counseling and Child Services. “It’s just going to be four hours jam-packed.”From the Lenawee Emergency and Affordable Housing Corporation to Salvation Army to the Family Counseling & Children’s Services, people have the chance to explore assistance opportunities. Besides the representatives for non-profit organizations, there are also hands-on projects, a free meal, free haircut, free medical testing and screenings, a mobile food pantry for shopping, and cooking demonstrations. Also included are free blanket, winter assistance giveaways and raffles. According to Riley, parents can learn how to make baby wipes and there are other hands-on projects designed to help save money. Also available is help with resumes and job search assistance.Another Lenawee Project Connect benefit is the ability for confidential HIV testing through the HIV/AIDS Resource Center (HARC) in Ann Arbor. The organization will have its mobile unit on site to do immediate testing for people.“We just want to reach as many people as possible,” said Riley about the goal for Lenawee Project Connect.If travel is a problem, residents should contact Family Counseling and Child Services, for transportation assistance. Riley said, “We will be doing pick-up points all over the county.”1Matters, a non-profit organization responsible for the Tent City program in Toledo paid the site rental at the fairgrounds and also provided advertising assistance to Lenawee Continuum of Care. “They have been a godsend,” Riley said about 1Matters.Activities, services and goods available for free at the event were donated to Lenawee Continuum of Care. “We’re trying to get a donation of diapers,” Riley said.The organization is still accepting donations of goods as well as looking for volunteers to assist with set-up on Jan. 29 or to guide visitors on the day of the event.The main purpose of the Lenawee County Continuum of Care is for businesses, agencies, law enforcement and community individuals to work together, sharing resources and procedures, to find help and services for people in housing crisis. the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) mandate for fund eligiblity, the county must have a working continuum of care that meets regularly. The continuum of care is accountable for HUD and MSHDA funding and spending and determines which agencies, if any, are deemed appropriate for such funding.“A lot of people aren’t even aware we have homeless in our backyard,” said Riley.Another goal of the organization is to bring awareness of services and assistance to families and individuals who don’t know they qualify for help available right here in Lenawee County. Eventually all the participating organizations hope to be in one central location to make assistance easier for county residents. The goal is to relocate on the campus where Adrian Training School operated.“It’s not easy right now for people in need,” Riley said of the time and travel required to get assistance. “Our goal is to make it easier to not have to do that kind of running.”Currently in Lenawee County the number of homeless is 124 people, 91 in families and 58 singles. This number is based on state information, but according to Riley a more accurate number is an estimated 150 people, because only 83 percent register for any kind of assistance.The perception of the homeless is people living in places not meant for habitation — the woods, a car or under a bridge. The truth, according to Riley, also includes people living in transitional housing, in an emergency shelter, victims of domestic violence situations, those living doubled up with another family, or people living in a hotel or motel.The number of homeless in Lenawee County has fluctuated since 2008 when the estimated number was 676. The number jumped to 896 people in 2009, dropped to 634 people in 2010, 585 people in 2011, and 491 in 2012.The goal of Lenawee Continuum of Care is to get people the assistance they need so everyone in the county has a home and can contribute some way, and Lenawee Project Connect is the first step in achieving this goal.“We want to give people a hand up, not a hand out,” said Riley.Anyone interested in more information about Lenawee Project Connect, making a donation for the event or to volunteer should contact Riley at Family Counseling and Child Services, 265.5352.For more information or to become involved in the Campaign To End Homelessness, visit www.thecampaigntoendhomelessness.org or contact the Lenawee County Continuum of Care co-chairs: Nancy Bishop, Lenawee County Department of Human Services, 264.6404, Sharon Hudson, Family Counseling and Children’s Services, 265.5352; or Khristine Henson-Jones, LEAHC/Housing Help of Lenawee, 264.0782.