Services for homeless presented at Civic March 30

SANTA CRUZ "" Reading glasses, cough drops, first-aid kits "" the United Way of Santa Cruz County is still seeking basic items to meet the needs of all homeless people expected to attend its Homeless Project Connect event, scheduled for March 30 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

The one-day community-wide event is designed to provide homeless people all the resources they need in one place, said Samantha Green, volunteer coordinator at United Way. Involving a team of local agencies and more than 200 volunteers, the project is on the right track, but United Way is still looking for personal hygiene items to distribute during the event.

Necessary items include sunscreen, lip balm, cough drops, handy or baby wipes, first-aid kits "" Band-Aids, alcohol swabs and Neosporin "" tissues, one-gallon Ziplock bags and over-the-counter reading glasses.

"Those glasses are very hard to come by," said Green, adding that basic donations such as water bottles, peanut butter or contributions in cash also are still welcome.

First held in San Francisco in 2004, the Homeless Project Connect provides housing, support and quality-of-life resources to homeless individuals. Green anticipates 800 to 1,200 people to show up this year for the first event in Santa Cruz.

"Being homeless is a skill that needs to be acquired," said Green, highlighting the fact that many people facing difficulties can't figure out all the resources that are available to them.

The Santa Cruz Homeless Project Connect will enable the needy to have access to many free services, including dental care, legal assistance, food, housing and employment information, banking services, DMV I.D. and birth certificates.

Access to these services is the first step bringing homeless individuals back in the community, Green said.

But she also ensured no one would be forced to do anything they didn't want to.

"A lot of times, people are not ready to make that step," said Green, adding that the event will also be an opportunity to "get a more accurate count of the homeless population in Santa Cruz County."

Priority will be given to homeless individuals, but the event will welcome all people in need showing up, Green said.

Donations can be made through United Way's Web site at www.unitedwaysc.org or by calling Samantha Green at 465-2208. For further information, send an e-mail to volunteer2@unitedwaysc.org.