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Semi-Annual Homeless Connect event helps thousands in Edmonton get ready for winter

Thousands receive the help they need at the 17th annual Homeless Connect event at the Shaw Conference Centre.
Thousands receive the help they need at the 17th annual Homeless Connect event at the Shaw Conference Centre. Global News

An estimated 2,000 people received the essential services they need at a semi-annual event which helps Edmonton’s less fortunate.

Over 70 different service providers — including hairstyling, dentistry, tax services, as well as housing — were all available at the Shaw Conference Centre for the 17th annual Homeless Connect event Sunday.

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The event is held twice a year, in the spring and fall, and aims to connect less fortunate Edmontonians, or homeless Edmontonians, with the services they need in a respectful manner.

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“[Homelessness] is something people are experiencing, not who they are,” Susan McGee, Homeward Trust Edmonton CEO, said.

READ MORE: Affordable housing a hot topic at Edmonton’s latest Homeless Connect

McGee added some of the services, like assistance with filing taxes, may seem quite simple but benefit people greatly in the long run.

“They may not be aware that without doing their taxes, they can’t access other services, other forms of income.”

Over 5,500 people have found new homes through the event over the past 10 years.

“To end homelessness as a community we have to really rethink the problem and it’s part of a big solution,” McGee said. “There has been a lot of progress but there is still a lot of work to do. One of the challenges is sufficient capital for permanent supportive housing and we need to build more units, that’s the real need.”

The event relies on dozens of volunteers that donate their time and services to make it a success.

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“I’m always really impressed with the number of volunteers that support the sector, support our work,” McGee said adding their work helps change the stigma around homelessness.

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“It’s really encouraging and it’s really one of the gifts of the event, where people afterwards get back to us and tell us its changed the way they are thinking.”

McGee says that sentiment leaves a lasting impression on everyone that attends. “People leave very positive and with a great experience.”