I wrote a while back about Disney’s Give a Day Get a Disney Day program where Disney was giving away a day at a Disney park in exchange for a day volunteering. I thought this sounded like a great program so I joined and found a volunteer program near me… well sort of near me. Yesterday I took part in Project Homeless Connect in San Francisco. I had volunteered to help people find jobs by helping do internet job searches and mock interviews. There were other opportunities closer to me, but this one seemed like it would be worthwhile.
Project Homeless Connect was an amazing effort to provide services for San Francisco’s homeless. The volunteers were encouraged when we arrived to look around at all that was happening. The DMV was there to provide id cards as was social security. There were medical services, and dentists doing teeth extraction, people performing HIV tests, acupuncturists and a popular group literally providing hands-on help with massages. There were groups providing help finding shelter and several groups dealing with victims of abuse or with people dealing with addiction. There were barbers, podiatrists and wheel chair repair people. Both the number of homeless and the number of volunteers were stunning.
My expectations to simply sit behind a table and wait for people to come look for a job were quickly shattered as I was handed a clipboard and told to talk to people and find those who wanted help finding a job. Some of my expectations of what a homeless person looks like were accurate and some were shattered. I talked to one young man who is a student at USF working on his degree in operations research. One man had just moved to the area and was looking for a job he could start tomorrow. Another man laughed at me that he had not had a job in 20 years. Two men informed me that they could not get jobs because they were homeless. Who would watch their stuff?
When I did get a chance to help a few people with an internet job search I was reminded once again that acts like checking your email, remembering your password and doing a job search that I take for granted are skills that I have learned over time. It was satisfying to help one woman get past her frustration submitting a job application and to provide some guidance what employers might be looking for. I would certainly consider participating in Project Homeless Connect when it happens again in two months. I think that was the point of the Disney project. If you get people to try volunteering, they might just like it.
update 2/25 – I just got the stats for the event:
The numbers of people needing your help yesterday at Project Homeless Connect #33 was enormous – 2497. Thanks to the 1598 volunteers we were able to accomplish so much.
91 ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS
52 BANKING ACCOUNTS
168 BENEFITS Cal Works, Food Stamps, GA
162 CALIFORNIA STATE ID’s
124 DENTAL TREATMENTS 300 SCREENED
635 EYE EXAMS & GLASSES
22,727 lbs GROCERIES
115 HAIR CUTS
22 HEARING SCREENS
113 HIV TESTS
162 LEGAL SUPPORT
258 MEDICAL & 64 FOLLOW UP APPTS
125 NEEDLE EXCHANGE
352 PHONE CALLS & 102 VOICE MAIL ACCOUNTS
106 SUBSTANCE ABUSE, MENTAL HEALTH & METHADONE TREATMENT
95 VETERANS SERVICES
78 VETERINARY CARE and PET SITTING
31 WHEELCHAIR REPAIRS
46 SHELTER & STABILIZATION 52 pending HOMEWARD BOUND