Posted Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
Temperatures were in the 20s this morning outside St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown as officials coordinating Morris County’s Project Homeless Connect said a few words — deliberately in the chilly sunshine before opening the doors.
The short speeches gave advocates for residents in need a chance to stand in the cold, shoulder-to-shoulder with people who experience homelessness or who are at risk of losing their shelter.
Bundled in coats and standing in the snow, for the most part, it was impossible to tell who was an advocate and who was a client.
They were all drawn to the Morristown church by Project Homeless Connect, an annual daylong, consumer-focused, one-stop event designed to provide an array of resources and support to those experiencing homelessness in our Morris County community.
More than 40 community-based service providers participated in today’s event, coordinated by the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris and joined by nonprofit partners and county government.
“Homelessness affects people from every walk of life in our county,” said Morris County Human Services Director Sharon Yoo, who participated in the event. “These people are our neighbors, our children, our veterans, and our family members. It is essential to provide a special day when we focus on homelessness and reach out to anyone struggling with homelessness to give them some help and hope.”
Men, women and young children, singles and families of all races and ages, eventually filed in to the church’s parish hall to answer four quick questions and then talk to representatives of a range of non-profit organizations.
Medical and mental health services, the Interfaith Food Pantry, Peer Recovery, Employment Horizons and the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs all sought to help clients who came to their tables. Free haircuts started at 10 a.m. A warm meal was offered in the kitchen. Boy Scouts had organized a room full or coats and another of clothing and blankets, all neatly stacked in categories and sizes.
Many “guests” stopped by the tables set up outside of the church by the Sheriff’s Hope One and Morris County’s Navigating Hope programs at the curb for a snack of muffins and donuts, a cup of coffee or just to chat with the staff about social services and/or addictions.
Their tables offered literature on addiction services, NARCAN training, as well as bags of toiletries and hand-knit hats, scarves and blankets. A trained eye could pick out some people suffering from opioid addictions. They offered bags of snacks to those who seemed to need food for later.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon summed up the day: “Helping and supporting people who are struggling is a priority in Morris County. Giving people a ‘help up,’ rather than a ‘hand-out,’ is part of the generous Morris County attitude.”