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About Us & Our Mission

Project Homeless Connect Volunteers Get Down to Help Others Out

By Courtney Cruz, Courtney Landis and Matthew Gubiotti

On June 9, 2006, over 1,500 volunteers got down on their knees to lift up, if even for one moment, over 2,300 homeless people at San Francisco’s 11th Project Homeless Connect (PHC). Every two months this citywide event brings city agencies and nonprofits together into the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to help homeless clients. Every PHC is bigger than the last, and each embodies the passion, spirit, and determination of the amazing people—both clients and volunteers—of San Francisco.

BASF’s Volunteer Legal Services Program coordinates both the Legal and the California ID areas of PHC. In the legal area, volunteer attorneys conduct intake with PHC clients and provide consultations. The answers and stories evoked by the question “Why do you need to talk to a lawyer?” are complex and reveal the pain, frustration, grief, and anger that the clients battle on a daily basis.

Pete, who has lived in San Francisco since 1979, had been a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in the Castro and was in peak physical condition. However, when he was diagnosed with AIDS and then prostate cancer, everything changed. Pete’s former roommate had stolen all of his possessions, valued in the thousands of dollars. He had a strong legal claim.

Another client, Joseph, was being rushed by his brother to the hospital for a complication related to his diabetes, when they were pulled over for having an expired registration and the police impounded their car. Joseph’s medication was locked in the trunk, and although an ambulance took him to the hospital, the officers would not allow him to get his medication out of the car

Both Pete and Joe received legal counseling at PHC.

For homeless residents of San Francisco, having a California ID is essential for obtaining social services, housing and employment. It is the key to regaining stability. The majority of clients at PHC have had their IDs stolen, or have lost them while living on the streets. In many cases, what is already a difficult situation is further complicated by mental or physical illness, illiteracy or addiction. Lack of financial resources can render the cost of an ID prohibitive.

At PHC, volunteers help clients navigate the paperwork, and a combination of state and local funds covers the cost of the ID. The DMV is onsite with their computers and cameras to process the ID applications on the spot.

The stories at PHC are as diverse and unique as the clients themselves. Some are recent transplants to San Francisco, looking for a fresh start or new opportunity. Many are life-long Bay Area residents, who have fallen on hard times. All need a hand getting back on their feet. Although having an ID or fixing a legal problem isn’t the solution to homelessness, it is an important first step in getting homeless individuals better access to the services they need.

Learn about the Homeless Advocacy Project.