Project Homeless Connect Helps Families Get Back on Track

From backpacks and haircuts for kids to financial checkups for parents, local families are more equipped to start the school year thanks to Project Homeless Connect.

“Oh my gosh, I love my backpack.”

“I think I got a job today!”

“Check out my new haircut!”

“This is really amazing, thank you so much.”

It really was an amazing day as our first annual Project Homeless Connect event came to a close on Friday, having helped over 100 homeless families connect with resources and services to help them get back on their feet – from back to school backpacks and supplies for the kids, to financial checkups for parents, and dental screenings and haircuts for all.

“I did not expect all of this,” said Yari, a mother of three who lives in Dorchester and works part time at Edible Arrangements. She came to the event excited to take advantage of the school supplies – a significant expense for one child, let alone three – and couldn’t believe how much more they received.

“I was a little hesitant to take a day off work, but it was so worth it. The backpacks for the kids alone are such a huge help, but the dental screenings and eye exams, shampoo and paper towels, all these resources – wow. For families like us to be able to come to one place and get all of these things for free is amazing.”

Her daughter Yaricelus, who is going into the 5th grade at Mather Elementary School, couldn’t agree more. She LOVED her new backpack and couldn’t stop smiling and talking about it. “This is so awesome. This whole community. I love it. I love my new backpack. I love the color. I picked it out myself!”

Throughout the day each family, like Yari’s, was paired with a United Way volunteer to help them navigate the many services and resources laid out across the sprawling Reggie Lewis Track Center in Roxbury. They got to know each other, many of them smiling and joking along the way like old friends.

“We’ve been having a great time and I’m just so happy to be able to help,” said Carolyn Bogle, one of the volunteers who spent the day working with Aneudy Navarro and his 15 year old daughter, who are currently living in a shelter.

“The shelter situation can be really hard,” said Aneudy. “This is a great way that United Way is helping us, being able to get so many things we need under one roof in one day.”

It was a true community effort. Companies like TJMaxx, Enterprise, UPS, Whole Foods and more helped with resume writing and job services. The BU School of Dental Medicine provided free dental screenings, which had a line all day long. Mass Eye and Ear provided eye exams. And dozens of community agencies were on hand to connect people with local resources and conduct financial checkups. Even the food was a group effort, with items donated from more than a dozen local providers so that families could have a meal while they were here.

“If ever there was an example of what it means to ‘LIVE UNITED’ this is it,” said Mike Durkin, President of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “When you look around and see so many different companies, community partners and volunteers, all coming together to make this possible, it is truly inspiring.”

Watch the story about Project Homeless Connect on WCVB-Channel 5.

Special thanks to the MANY incredible partners who came together to make this happen, especially our supporters Yale Appliance, Eastern Bank, and AT&T!