I’ve very much started looking forward to Homeless Connect, which happens twice a year, in May and October. Similar to any annual event or festival where seasoned volunteers have the opportunity to reunite again after a period of time, Homeless Connect has become a place for Mack and I to catch up with familiar faces, in addition, of course, to giving back (you can read Mack’s recap here).
Today saw the sixth incarnation of the one-stop shop event geared towards Edmonton’s homeless population. I commented to Mack that although nothing is perfect, Homeless Connect is a great example of an event that really does continuously improve. Organizers weren’t sure if the number of guests would be affected by the gorgeous weather, but at the day’s end, it turned out they needn’t have worried.
For the first time, Mack and I were assigned to a team other than registration – we were to be guides. Once guests were finished filling out the intake form, we would be waved down to escort guests to their service priorities.
The guides get oriented
The system, comparable to an airport taxi queue, was very well organized – guides waited patiently in line for their chance to guide a guest, instead of the free-for-all that it supposedly has been in the past. There were a large number of guides – possibly too many – as it meant all guides had to wait a while before being paired up with a guest, but it did allow volunteers to take breaks without worrying that it would impact the team.
It was a nice change for me, and definitely meant that I was able to explore the available services firsthand with the guests. As well, it became obvious that some services were better prepared than others (for example, the hairdressers only started implementing a number system until part way through, which led to some frustration). Most guests just wanted to get to point B, but a few didn’t mind the company while they familiarized themselves with the lay of the land.
In the past few Homeless Connect events, the line would typically start to dwindle around noon. Today, there was no such decline. And because old habits die hard, I seized an empty table and finished up my day with the registration team.
The registration crush
They had added a new question regarding specific identification needs to the form, and also (finally!) separated the categories of “refugee” and “refugee claimant”. Other than that, the form was very similar to the previous version. My only suggestion is to somehow streamline the set-up so that all registration tables are within the sightline of guests. I was seated at a trio of tables angled in such a way that we were all but forgotten, or worse, couldn’t be seen by the volunteer directing guests to empty registration seats. All this while the line did not wane.
At the end of the day, 1409 was the preliminary guest count, only slightly less than the number that had accessed Homeless Connect six months prior. Bravo to Homeward Trust, the Shaw Conference Centre for hosting, and to all of the other service agencies for another successful event. See you in October!