An annual event held in Mobile for a segment of the local population in need of various services, Project Homeless Connect (PHC) does exactly what it says: it connects the homeless with those who can meet their needs. The one-day event, held at the fairgrounds in west Mobile, this year on Friday, January 26, offered a wide variety of services, from medical checkups to haircuts to photo-identification cards. The event is organized by Housing First, Inc., a Mobile non-profit, but is almost entirely staffed by volunteers.
For the third year, Episcopalians young and old participated in PHC by collecting donated clothes and distributing them at the event. The Rev. Deacon Terry Goff, who had volunteered at the event since it began five years ago, saw a need that was not being fully met. Many of the homeless were arriving in the middle of winter without warm clothing. The following year, she began an effort to collect donated coats that could be distributed at the event. As she was serving as deacon at Trinity in Mobile, that parish became the collection site, and soon the room designated to store the donated clothing was almost bursting at the seams. More than 1,000 coats were donated that first year.
The following year, she began requesting donations of other articles of clothing. Some 20 racks were soon filled, and a truck was donated for the day to transport the clothes to the fairgrounds. Volunteers from Trinity and other area parishes helped distribute the clothes to the homeless, who are called guests at the event.
The participation of volunteers grew even more this year. In addition to the efforts of those at Trinity, youth at the Church of the Redeemer had their own clothes drives. Colin Archer asked the first-grade classes at O’Rourke Elementary to collect socks — they provided approximately 700 pairs. Cecilia Archer asked the fifth-grade classes at O’Rourke to collect coats and warm clothes — competition was fierce between the classes as each class wanted to bring the most clothing. Approximately 500 items of clothing were provided. O’Rourke also donated the jackets from the lost-and-found for the school year (80 jackets).
Trinity, St. John’s and Redeemer were all collection sites for PHC this year and provided many, many articles of clothing. Donations were also brought from the Christ Cathedral and St. Luke’s, as well as neighbors in the community who knew Trinity was collecting for the guests.
In all Trinity had 30 very full racks of coats, pants, shirts, and business clothing for men, women and children, plus socks, underwear, hats, gloves, scarves, hygiene items, shoes, belts, pajamas and blankets to send home with the guests.
Each guest was invited to “take what you need” as they were greeted with warm smiles by volunteers ranging in age from 10 years to 80-something. Each assisted the guests in finding their sizes, folding their selections and packing their bags. These volunteers let the light of Christ shine forth into the world into each face they met at Project Homeless Connect.