Guests of Project Homeless Connect can access more than 80 services and resources at the annual event.
October 12, 2018
For the past three years, Bekki Schmitt, Information and Outreach coordinator for the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, has manned a resource table at Project Homeless Connect.
“This is one of my favorite outreach events of the year,” reflected Bekki. “We talk to so many people about the services provided by the Department on Aging. Not everyone who comes through is a senior, but there are more older individuals experiencing homelessness than you might think.”
Milwaukee County Department on Aging (MCDA) serves anyone aged 60 or older with a wide range of programs and services including: senior centers, transportation, meals at area dining sites, dementia care, as well as long term care programs.
Providing outreach to individuals attending Project Homeless Connect has proven to be a great fit for MCDA. “It’s a natural connection,” said Bekki. “Project Homeless Connect offers us a great opportunity to share resources with older adults experiencing homelessness.”
According to Bekki, the great thing about connecting to older adults experiencing homelessness at an event like Project Homeless Connect is that it acts as an entryway into the vast network of community resources, so the person is never again left behind. “Once someone taps into the resources from MCDA, they are connected to professionals, services, and agencies, all of whom can open the door to other resources when the need arises.”
Bekki remembers a story of two men experiencing homelessness who began regularly attending a senior dining site in West Allis. Over time, workers and attendees of the dining site got to know them, so when one of the men stopped coming, they knew something might be wrong. “They found out he had had a small crisis and immediately connected him with professionals who could help,” said Bekki. “I’ve watched that same scenario play out time and time again – that’s why it’s so important to connect people to others who care and can look out for them.”
Bekki loves seeing Project Homeless Connect guests arrive at her table alongside their guest advocate, a community volunteer paired one-on-one with each guest who can help them navigate resources and feel at ease. “When people walk up to our table alongside a guest advocate, it changes the tone of the conversation. It’s no longer a professional talking to a person in need, but three community members connecting.”
“This is one of the most inspiring events I’ve seen in our community,” said Bekki. “We face a lot of challenges in Milwaukee, but there are times when you see a point of light, see people and agencies come together to rally behind something really important. Project Homeless Connect is one of those moments.”
Milwaukee County Department on Aging serves anybody 6o and older with the goal of empowering older adults and strengthening our community. Visit county.milwaukee.gov/aging to learn more.
Project Homeless Connect is one week away! It’s not too late to help – sign up to volunteer or purchase an item off of the Amazon wishlist. Hope to see you there!