Project Homeless Connect Rochester
Project Homeless Connect Rochester (PHCR) began in 2009 as a volunteer-driven annual event dedicated to connecting homeless individuals and families to housing and other critical resources. Modeled after San Francisco’s Project Homeless Connect, the explicit mission of PCHR is to “rally the city to support and create lasting solutions for homeless Rochesterians”.

PHCR entrance interviews conducted by Nazareth College social work students indicate the “one stop” venue serves approximately 700 individuals and families annually. Each year, about half of PHCR guests report that they did not sleep in their own home on the night prior to the event – some slept with friends and family members, some slept in shelters, and some slept on the street. Approximately half of those who slept in their own homes face the threat of eviction within three weeks.


Homelessness Nationally

  • Many low-income households face risk of homelessness due to the lack of affordable housing in their communities.
  • “Doubling-up” with family and friends is one of the most common living situations just prior to experiencing homelessness.
  • The majority of the population experiencing homelessness is living in some form of transitional housing or shelter; approximately one-third are living in a place not meant for human habitation.
  • Veterans comprise less than 10% of the  homeless population. The homeless veteran population in the U.S. has steadily declined over the last few decades.
  • Chronically homeless individuals and families often have particularly complex needs.

In 2017, PHCR guests roughly reflected nationwide homelessness figures:

  • More men (57%) than women completed entrance interviews.
  • More African-American individuals (55%) than other racial groups completed entrance interviews.
  • Approximately one in ten was Hispanic or Latino.
  • Approximately one in 10 guests was a veteran.
  • Age varied from teens to elderly individuals, with middle-aged adults most heavily represented. The average age of those completing entrance interviews was 44, with self-reported ages ranging from 15 to 85.

PHC FloorPictured right is guests being checked-in to the PHCR event. Guests report their primary reasons for attending PHCR are concrete: to obtain identification, winter clothing, and linkages to services, such as housing and employment resources.

As guests leave PHCR, they report high levels of satisfaction with the volunteers and the spirit of the PHCR event as a whole. Approximately 439 individuals completed a voluntary exit survey in 2017. The vast majority (85%) found participating in PHCR very helpful and 88% stated that the event helped connect them to the services they needed.

Planning for the 10th Annual PHCR
As it approaches its 10th anniversary, PHCR continues to be organized and implemented by a community-wide team of agency representatives and volunteers. The Nazareth College Department of Social Work plays a critical role within this team. Faculty members Jed Metzger and Leanne Charlesworth attend the PHCR Planning Committee’s monthly meetings, reviewing annual event data and working collaboratively toward continuous improvement. Current efforts are focused on refining service provider and volunteer training prior to the event and orientation on the day of the event.

Student conducting entrance interviewPictured left is a PHCR student volunteer. Nazareth College BSW and MSW students comprise the majority of PHCR volunteers, serving as either entrance/exit interviewers or guest escorts. Student roles are tied to diverse service learning assignments specific to distinct social work courses across the curriculum. Observing that many social work students repeatedly volunteer at PCHR during their years in the undergraduate and graduate social work programs, Metzger and Charlesworth have seized this opportunity to initiate scaffolding of student volunteers. During the upcoming fall 2018 event, seasoned social work students will mentor students new to the event, providing shadowing experiences and serving as a mobile “help desk” during the event.

Although all Nazareth College social work faculty members have supported PHCR since its inception, the role of additional social work faculty in orienting and directing student volunteers has become more integral to successful PHCR implementation in recent years. The scope of Nazareth College student and faculty volunteers has also expanded significantly to address the need for (ASL and Spanish) interpretation services, a stream-lined resource (e.g., coats, toiletries) distribution system, and transportation.

As PCHR grows in scope and presence within the Rochester community, the PHCR Planning Committee is working to ensure all service providers understand the goals of the event. New strategies have been identified to communicate with participating agencies including the design of an online training tool for service providers. The goal is strengthened connections to critical partners, such as county departments, shelter directors, and academic departments within other institutions of higher education.

Suggestions for Communities Interested in Hosting a PHC
PHCR offers a few suggestions to others considering development of their own Project Homeless Connect:

  • Collaborate with local government officials.
  • Secure a host site. A large, central venue is essential.
  • Enlist leaders from critical sectors across the local academic, government, and service communities.
  • Emphasize same-day service and resource provision rather than referrals.

The next PHCR event will be held on September 13, 2018. Stay tuned for Rochester updates via homelessconnectrochester.org.

Blog Post Authors: Leanne Charlesworth and Jed Metzger, Professors of Social Work at Nazareth College.

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