Project Homeless Connect is quickly approaching and organizers are in need of the community's support to serve the more than 1,000 people who will participate.
The one-day event provides people experiencing homelessness a board range of services, connections and basic necessities including housing, employment, health and dental care, mental health care, veterans' and social services benefits, legal services, haircuts, hot meals and clothing.
Events will be held in Tulare and Kings counties from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 and 26.
"The overarching goal of Project Homeless Connect is to provide a welcoming environment where people experiencing homelessness can access services efficiently," said Machael Smith, executive director of the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance. "Navigating services without a steady home can often take months and require multiple trips across the bi-county region."
There are more than 660 homeless people in Tulare County — at least 400 live in Visalia, officials said.
However, Smith believes there could be more — as many as three times more.
"By centralizing access to resources, we are reducing some of the barriers to accessing housing, employment and other supportive services," she said.
Organizers are asking for cash and in-kind donations. Items needed include:
Beanies, gloves and scarves
In 2016, Visalia Police Department saw a 53 percent increase in calls for service related to transient activity from the previous year.
Additionally, "chronic homelessness" in Visalia has increased by 67 percent since last year, Smith said.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office defines "chronic homelessness," in two ways: A person with a disabling condition who has experienced homelessness for a year or more; or a person with a disabling condition that has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.
Donations can be dropped off at locations in Hanford, Porterville, Tulare and Visalia. Volunteers are also needed. For more information on how to become a volunteer click here.
How to attend:
First Baptist Church, 469 N. Cherry Street, Tulare
Visalia Rescue Mission Community Center, 741 Northeast 1st Ave., Visalia
1st United Methodist Church, 344 E. Morton Ave., Porterville