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Area agencies offering free services to veterans, homeless

Dowagiac Daily News - 9/21/2017

DOWAGIAC - Representatives with more than a dozen different agencies will assemble in Dowagiac next month in order to give the area's most vulnerable population a hand out of the bleak world of poverty and homelessness.

The Cass County Continuum of Care will host a Project Connect event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the First United Methodist Church, 326 N. Lowe St., Dowagiac. People who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless due to a low income or pending foreclosure are invited to attend the event, designed to connect at risk populations with local support organizations.

Among the groups participating in Oct. 18 event are:

The American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Woodlands Behavioral Health

Cass Family Clinic

Van Buren/Cass Health Department

KeyStone Place

In addition, visitors may receive free haircuts, courtesy of Edwardsburg salon Rock, Paper, Scissors, as well as a free lunch. A mobile food pantry with Feeding America will also be on site, handing out bags of food for attendees to take home with them.

Organizers are also partnering with Veteran Stand Down, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation's homeless veterans, for the event. All area veterans are invited to participate in the event, where they will have a chance to receive information from various veteran service agencies.

The event is one of many such gatherings across the country under the Project Connect program, which is coordinated through local homeless coalitions, such as the Cass County Continuum of Care, and supported by agencies such as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

"The point is to get as many agencies as we can under one roof, to get people signed up or prescreened for the services they can provide," said Emily Henry, one of the organizers of the upcoming event.

Project Connect events allows people to learn more about health, educational, housing and other services they may have been unfamiliar with before. By consolidating the services into a single location, it also makes things easier for those who cannot easily afford to travel to different offices, Henry said.

The Cass County Continuum of Care last hosted one of these events in 2014, intended solely for the homeless. By expanding the scope of the event to those who are at risk of homelessness and to veterans, coalition members are hoping to reach even more people in need, Henry said.

Assisting veterans in need has been a priority in particular the last several years. Local agencies affiliated with the continuum of care, including KeyStone Place where Henry works, signed a pledge last November to help end veteran homelessness in Michigan.

"It is a very important cause for all of us," Henry said. "We believe that housing is a human right, and veterans have earned every right and benefit they can get their hands on."

For more information about the upcoming Project Connect event visit facebook.com/cassprojectconnect.

 
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