SANTA CRUZ > Silent auction fundraiser kicks off Project Homeless Connect
“I am not a miracle—I am a product of people’s generosity,” Stephen Nelson told a crowd of about 60 people at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on Thursday, Feb 23.
Nelson, who once homeless and struggled with addiction, came to Santa Cruz almost eight years ago, and today he works with the Homeless Service Center to provide services to people who now face the difficulties he once struggled with. Nelson spoke to the crowd as part of a charity fundraiser benefitting Project Homeless Connect, a one-day event that aims to provide necessary services to Santa Cruz’s homeless population.
Thursday’s fundraiser, which served as the kick-off event for Project Homeless Connect, began with a silent auction. As guests entered the museum, they were greeted by a table overflowing with items to bid on to raise money for the project. The available items included gift cards for local businesses like Azhair Hair Design, Be and Be Well Wellness Center and Soif Wine Bar.
The auction raised more than $2,000 for Project Homeless Connect, although another $5,000 is still needed.
Project Homeless Connect will take place on April 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event was first held in Santa Cruz in 2010, though it was inspired by a San Francisco model which debuted in 2004. The goal of the project is reflected in its slogan: “One day and every day.” The project aims to service every aspect of a homeless person’s needs in one day—providing them with access to medical and dental care, substance abuse treatment, California identification cards, job placement and counseling, voicemail boxes, hygienic products, clean clothes and a hot meal, among other things.
Each year, Santa Cruz’s Project Homeless Connect provides services to more than 1,000 people. Each person is assigned to a volunteer who leads them through the process, ensuring that all of their needs are met along the way. It requires almost 500 volunteers to make the process run smoothly.
Project Homeless Connect is sponsored in part by United Way of Santa Cruz County. Kymberly Lacrosse is a community organizer with United Way and works closely with the project.
“The event has been very successful each year,” says Lacrosse. “In addition, Project Homeless Connect has established relationships between agencies, clients and community volunteers. The results are seen all throughout the year.”
For more information about Project Homeless Connect, please visit phc-santacruz.org.