homeless connectEvery few months in San Francisco, the 6,000-plus residents of the city who live on the sidewalks, in parks and in shelters, have one day to get free care and services. Project Homeless Connect makes it possible to call family and friends, get tested for diseases, take an animal companion to the vet, and get a free haircut. On Wednesday, September 23, fifteen students from the Salon & Spa at Skyline College donated their time and efforts to help homeless people feel like themselves again.

According to SF Gate, more than 6,600 people in San Francisco are “visibly homeless,” which means they live on the street or in a shelter. Even more city dwellers are in transitional housing programs or staying temporarily with friends or family. A lack of permanent address and phone number often make it difficult to receive care or communicate. Created in 2004 by then-mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, PHC offers vital services to homeless people including dental care, reading glasses, phone and computer use, government ID, legal advice, HIV and STI testing, groceries, and veterinary care for pets.

Although many Skyline College students live in San Francisco and see homeless people on the street, this event put the problem in a human context. While touching, talking to and grooming clients, suddenly the perspective changed. During the day of service, our students made real connections, learning the personal stories of lives both before and during periods of homelessness. Injury, illness or mental instability can act as catalysts and quickly drain finances and resources, with the end result of losing a home and a job. To know that in a practical sense is one thing, but in an emotional sense it is quite another.

By the end of the day, the whole team was hot and tired and covered with hair clippings. But student faces were beaming with pride and accomplishment, having made a genuine connection. As a group they unanimously agreed to participate at the next Project Homeless Connect.

Article by Lynsey Hemstreet