Warrensburg, UCM join to help homeless

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Story by ELLEN BECKER, Managing Editor—

Hundreds of local and campus volunteers work to provide products and services to guests. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Photo Editor)

Hundreds gathered in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center Friday to provide products and services for Project Homeless Connect.
More than 250 UCM students volunteered for the event, as well as numerous other campus and community members.
UCM social work majors served as greeters and guides, and helped distribute clothing and food, while speech pathology students provided hearing and speech screenings.
Many UCM nursing students were also at the event.
They checked blood glucose levels for people nervous about diabetes, worked with Women Infants and Children (WIC) to measure and weigh children to make sure they had the correct body mass index and were at the normal levels for their ages.
Guests were also provided with information on cancer, HIV screenings, vision tests and flu shots, all free of charge.
Chantal Sperry, a junior nursing student at UCM, said she helped as part of a requirement through the nursing program.
“It’s been great to give back and use what we’ve learned,” she said. “I’m still in awe of what we’ve done here, and I’m so glad Johnson County put this together.”
There were 95 booths set up in the Rec Center, where people could have their basic needs fulfilled.
Five areas of service were provided.
The first area was credentials, which offered help with birth certificates, photo I.Ds and voter registration.
The second area, basic needs, included help with counseling, housing and utilities, food stamps, haircuts, clothing, laundry and showers.
The third area, family and personal growth, included GED tutoring, STD education, family photographs, mentor applications, nutrition and financial counseling.
Area four was life challenges, which included mental screenings, alcohol and drug counseling, disability assistance and resume and employment assistance.
The fifth area, health, included vision tests, blood glucose and blood pressure tests, orthopedic assistance, hygiene items, cold and flu medicine, and dental screenings.
The event was organized by Johnson County Cares.
Many local businesses and service providers offered their time and talents.
Planning for Project Homeless Connect began about five months ago.
The idea came out of the  Missouri Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness, which has sponsored similar events all over the state.
Friday’s event was the first of its kind in Johnson County.
Bob Vickers, executive director for the Johnson County United Way, said he had helped with a similar event in Sedalia, Mo. last year.
“It was a great event, with more than 200 volunteers, and I said we need to do this in Warrensburg,” Vickers said. “Beth Rutt came to us and said the university would help us make it happen.”
“We’ve been planning this since early summer,” said Jean Nuernberger, associate professor of communication disorders and social work at UCM.
“Many students helped set up the night before,” she said. “And there have been so many community volunteers too.”
A leadership committee was set up, and word of the event was spread through local service providers and churches.
There was a steady flow of people throughout the event, which started at 10 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m.
Suzy Latare, media co-chair, said there was a line of people waiting outside when the doors opened.
“Some people were in and out, but others stayed for over an hour,” she said. “Our goal was to get them the services they needed, not just give them referals.”
Nuernberger said they are hoping Project Homeless Connect will become an annual event.
“I was so humbled by the university’s contributions, and so proud of the students for being here,” Latare added. “I’m just thrilled with the turnout.”