County homeless utilize aid program

In the county’s first day of its Homeless Connect program, more than 110 homeless people arrived at the Red Morton Community Center in Redwood City, far surpassing the county’s goal of 75.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the center had nearly double the number of homeless people county officials had anticipated by 11:30 a.m. The homeless came to receive free dental checkups, mental-health services, housing help, haircuts and vaccinations for their pets, said Wendy Goldberg, manager of the county’s homeless services.

Based on San Francisco’s popular program of the same name, the core of Homeless Connect depends on enlisting hundreds of volunteers to go to the homeless with the services they most need, said Ed DeMasi, development coordinator The City’s project Homeless Connect.

Since its inception in 2004, the program has served more than 18,500 different clients, averaging about 2,000 at each event, DeMasi said. The success of the program has led the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness to promote it far and wide, resulting in more than 100 similar programs blooming across the nation and abroad, including Australia, Puerto Rico and Canada, DeMasi said.

“To me, it’s already a success,” Goldberg said. Putting on Thursday’s event cost the county about $10,000, not including thousands of dollars in donations in free bike repair, haircuts, refreshments and more.

Richard Brown, a homeless 44-year-old from Redwood City, said he and a friend stood in line for more than 45 minutes to get in. “We knew there was going to be a lot of people,” he said.

With more than 130 volunteers and 30 county social services staff on hand, however, directing the homeless to a dozen or more services wasn’t a problem.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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