Event planning is one of the most powerful tools in your agency’s arsenal. A single event can galvanize your community. Recruit volunteers. Raise funds. And most important — reach struggling members of your community who may not find your services through other channels.
Our friends at One Roof in Birmingham, AL provide a great case study in using events to help those in need. As the HUD Continuum of Care for Central Alabama, they coordinate services provided by roughly 60 area agencies. They also know how to get results. In just the past five years, One Roof has secured over $40 million for homeless services in the region.
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1. Make Your Event a “One-Stop Shop”
Each year, One Roof hosts its Project Homeless Connect. The purpose: to take away the barriers to safe, decent, affordable housing. Those barriers are many: health problems, lack of a state ID, legal issues and more.
“This event is a one-stop shop where people can come and find everything they need,” said DeShunn Wilkerson, Community Outreach Coordinator at One Roof. “In one day, people can get help from 60 different agencies, so they avoid the time-consuming, frustrating process of trying to travel all over Birmingham to resolve all the issues that keep them homeless.”
The range of services provided at this single event is inspiring. At the 2017 event, more than 640 homeless clients received everything from legal assistance to grooming, flu shots, dental screenings and eye exams (see sidebar).
2. Use your Event to Strengthen Partnerships and Stakeholder Relations
In 2017, One Roof’s Project Homeless Connect helped 642 clients with:
251 legal services
183 state IDs
148 housing-related services
154 grooming services
57 flu shots
178 dental screenings
98 eye exams
85 prescription glasses
The event drew 527volunteers!
One Roof partners with the City of Birmingham, who generously donates use of the city’s Boutwell Auditorium. Located in downtown Birmingham, it’s near many shelters and places where the homeless camp out.
One Roof also collaborates with over 60 agencies that offer all the services offered at the event. Providing these services in one place, at no cost, makes them much more accessible to the men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in greater Birmingham. It’s also a great way for these agency members to meet one another and share what they know.
3. Find Creative Ways to Leverage Technology
One Roof connects all these partners though its PromisSE data management system, powered by Mediware’s ServicePoint software. The system makes networking among agencies easy and prevents duplication of services to the homeless in Central Alabama. PromisSE even connects local hospitals and health departments to assure seamless provision of care. The Web-based system provides real-time demographic data and facilitates appropriate care and referrals for homeless citizens every day of the year.
On the day of Project Homeless Connect, ServicePoint does even more. Agencies can invite homeless individuals in the days leading up to the event, pre-registering them and printing out a “Golden Ticket” invite. On the event day, this pre-registration data speeds connection of clients to the services they need. Walk-in clients are quickly registered in ServicePoint, to instantly identify the services an individual qualifies for or is in need of.
When needed, the system also makes it easy to conduct coordinated assessments on site.
4. Promote Volunteerism
One Roof also partners with the United Way of Central Alabama’s Hands On Birmingham as well as Faith Chapelchurch to coordinate volunteers. Last year the event drew well over 500 volunteers, and this year Wilkerson hopes to draw 1,000. Volunteers serve as Smiling Faces Client Guides and help guide guests at PHC through all the services they wish to access.
“For a lot of volunteers this event is a first. They have never talked to someone experiencing homelessness. They learn that these folks are first just people like you and me…they’re just people that need some help. These volunteers gain a great experience by the end of the day and we hope many of them will come back.”
5. Raise Awareness Throughout Your Community
“This really is a community event,” said Wilkerson. “It takes everyone in the community coming together, whether they volunteer or provide a service or simply gain more awareness of the needs here in Birmingham.”