On February 28, 2008, the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County – Harold J. Wirths. Freeholder Director, Glen Vetrano, Deputy Director, Phillip R. Crabb, Jeffrey M. Parrott and Susan M. Zellman – thanked each of the volunteers who helped make Project Homeless Connect and Point in Time a success. The event was attended by more forty (40) volunteers who were thanked for making the 2008 events a success. To view the list click here.
NEWTON – Just last week, as Stephen Gruchacz walked through the county’s social services office, he saw about 75 people in the waiting room, and “an awful lot of strollers.
A recent survey confirmed the impression of the administrator of the county Department of Health and Human Services: the number of homeless or at-risk families with young children is on the rise.
At a January outreach event, Project Homeless Connect, held in conjunction with the county’s annual homeless survey, more than half of the families who attended had children: Out of the 170 total children, 111 were under 6.
Last year, the project found 111 total children either already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The data collected by the program will help direct future efforts, Gruchacz said, especially since the status of financial support is questionable as state legislators debate where budget cuts should be made. Many of the programs already in place are funded through state grants.
“In Sussex County, we don’t have the population to support formula funding that some other counties have,” Gruchacz said. “The dollars we are getting are less, but the issues we are addressing are the same.”
Project Homeless Connect was conducted late last month, and 39 agencies gathered in one place to provide services including legal assistance, medical services, food and even haircuts and massage therapy.
About 40 percent of the 94 residents who attended have spent a night in an emergency shelter, Gruchacz said. More than a third of the total attendees were families, and 58 percent of those families had children.
“We are now doing needs reassessments (that will analyze) how to better utilize our resources,” Gruchacz said, noting that the assessments should be completed by the end of the year. Because of the likely funding cuts, and a projected increase in the number of homeless families, services will ideally be streamlined and any redundancies eliminated, Gruchacz said.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to coordinate the services,” he said.
The county Freeholders pledged their continued support of the program Wednesday, as they individually recognized each of the services involved with Project Homeless Connect.
“It’s very important to take care of your home first,” Freeholder Director Hal Wirths said to the packed meeting room, where representatives from each group sat. “We really thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
The Project Homeless Connect model has been used by more than 130 cities nationwide, according to the county’s Web site. It originated in San Francisco in 2004, and the city now holds the event on a bi-monthly basis.