MSW students assist more than 100 Madison County residents at Project Homeless Connect

William Hormann, of Worden, sought job resources and legal, medical and housing information last week during Project Homeless Connect at the Salvation Army in Alton – an event supported by Master of Social Work (MSW) students.

More than 100 Madison County residents attended Project Homeless Connect Jan. 29 at the Salvation Army in Alton. The event, which Master of Social Work students helped organized and volunteered at, brings together social service providers for the area's homeless population. Photo by Kari Williams.

“There’s a lot of resources out here that I didn’t know were out here for people that may need help with housing or legal help or questions that they may have about the healthcare system and job searches,” Hormann said. “There’s just a lot of information out here that I didn’t know was out here.”

Hormann, along with more than 100 other Madison County residents, attended the event that MSW students in social work professor Jayme Swanke’s community development class helped plan and volunteered. Project Homeless Connect, hosted by the Madison County Continuum of Care, brings social service providers together and offers advice and services to the county’s homeless population.

MSW students Holly Kish and Dominique Smith said they assisted with organizing the event to give back to the community. Smith, who helped MSW students raise roughly $600 for Project Homeless Connect, said her experience with the event has been “amazing.”

“I moved up here from Mississippi, so it’s like a whole new way of giving back,” Smith said. “Volunteering, actually being a part of social work. It’s amazing.”

Kish said the ability to give back to the community “is rewarding in itself.”

Continuum of Care Coordinator David Harrison said it is “absolutely wonderful” the social work department is involved with Project Homeless Connect.

“I think it’s great practical experience for the students to come out and actually meet with social service providers and to make contact with the general public and some of our folks that are experiencing a housing crisis,” Harrison said.

Student involvement has added volunteers to the program and provided assistance with planning the event, according to Harrison.

“Dr. Swanke’s classes helped us get donations for the event, helped make contact with a number of new vendors we have this year. So it has been – it’s been a godsend,” Harrison said.

One of the new vendors this year is Lutheran Social Services. Michele Graham of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois represented her organization for its inaugural placement at the event. The organization works with people “serving a term of mandatory supervised release,” otherwise known as a term of parole or probation, and helps “re-acclimate back to society.”

Graham said SIUE’s involvement with Project Homeless Connect is “a great thing.”

“We have volunteers in our office, interns in our office [from SIUE],” Graham said. “I think that any time you can get the community and colleges… together to help with this type of event I think is a great thing.”

The significance of Project Homeless Connect, according to Harrison, is that it coincides with the county’s count of homeless individuals, as well as raises public awareness about homelessness.

“We’re trying to make that connection between our service providers and the people that are experiencing homelessness,” Harrison said.

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