Story by Julia Vergara | Staff Writer, Video by Branson Hardcastle | Broadcast Reporter
Waco companies and organizations came together at Project Homeless Connect to offer help and services to the city’s homeless community.
The event took place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday at the Waco Convention Center and was hosted by The Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition, The City of Waco and The Department of Veteran Affairs.
Mike Ormsby is a social worker at the Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a member of the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition. He said people dealing with homelessness come to Project Homeless Connect to connect with agencies that might be able to help them along, to meet some of their needs and end their homelessness.
“That’s kind of the overall goal that we have,” Ormsby said. “To gather as many folks that are dealing with homelessness in Waco and to hopefully connect them with agencies that can help them make some steps out of homelessness and also it’s a good way to show that we — as a community — care about them.”
Ormsby said that in some form or fashion, Project Homeless Connect has been happening for more than 20 years. A few members from the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition, The Department of Veteran Affairs and other organizations meet together regularly to plan. They send out invitations to all the agencies they work with regularly or that they know whose work impacts those who are experiencing homelessness.
Waco is united as a community when it comes to addressing homelessness and addressing their needs, Ormsby said.
“It’s really nice to come together once or twice a year to work together,” Ormsby said. “It’s a way to feel supported as agencies because you know — on days like this, you’re standing next to somebody who has the same mission and same goal as you do.”
According to Ormsby, Project Homeless Connect has only been hosted once a year until recently. it is now a bi-annual event because last summer, NeighborWorks Waco offered to help meet some of the needs to make it happen in the summer as well.
President and CEO of NeighborWorks Waco Roy Nash said that after seeing the plight of so many homeless people in Waco, he thought that someone needs to be doing something more than what’s being done now.
Like every organization, NeighborWorks Waco is free to come up with their own plan of what they want to do to improve their community, Nash said.
“Since we’re a versatile organization, we have the resources to help and it’s like why not? That’s why we’re involved. We just want to be a part of helping these folks improve their lives,” Nash said.
At Project Homeless Connect Tuesday, Nash was speaking to a homeless man who said that he just became homeless on Tuesday. When Nash asked why, the man said his daughter ran off with all of his money and now, he’s trying to take care of his grandchildren and make ends meet with a disability check.
“It’s like wow,” Nash said. “You know, I said, ‘Well let me see if I can help you get a part-time job.’ And we went and talked to the employment commission and sure enough, he came away and he has a job starting next week.”
Nash said that even though everybody has seen individuals pushing a shopping cart on the street or panhandling, they are not really aware of their plight.
“They’re sort of hidden from us for the most part,” Nash said. “But they’re here and they all have a story.”