On Friday, Salt Lake City will hold its first Project Homeless Connect. Standing in the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced what the city plans to make an annual event.
“On Oct. 6, this hall behind us will be transformed into a place of hope, friendship and opportunity,” she said. “Today we are here to officially launch what I know will become one of this city’s greatest events.”
Similar events have been integrated into Project Homeless Connect, including Project Stand Down organized by Veteran Affairs and Project Uplift organized by the Salt Lake Main Library.
The one day event begins with breakfast. After that, homeless people will have the opportunity to connect with more than a dozen different resources, including housing intakes, employment assistance, medical and dental care, bike maintenance and educational services. The event will also offer haircuts, massage and foot care.
Rachel Santizo was once homeless. Now she’s a member of the committee for Project Homeless Connect. She said the event is about more than the services offered.
“It’s about how we’re going to make the individuals feel. We’re going to give homeless hugs. That’s the most powerful message you can give anybody in the world,” Santizo said.
Each person attending the event will be matched with a member of the community who will walk with them and help them connect with the services they need. At the end, they’ll leave with a backpack full of clothing and food items they can select for themselves. Each backpack will also have a list of resources available to people experiencing homelessness.
“This event means so much to me. I remember being on the streets. I remember dumpster diving. I remember feeling invisible,” she said. “I love that we’re all coming together. I think it’s necessary and it’s needed and it’s well deserved for the people that are living on the streets.”