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Annual Event Returns to Pair Homeless with Needed Services

Anna Thomas
Jeff Attaway and Mary Lou Manning receive their free flu shots at the HOPE Connection event. /Credit: Anna Thomas

Community Partnership of the Ozarks is teaming up with over 75 local organizations for this year’s HOPE Connection, an annual event aimed at providing various services to the area’s homeless community. Deputy Director of Affordable Housing and Homeless Prevention at CPO Michelle Garand says this year is shaping up to be bigger than the last.

“Every year we have increased participation by about 25 percent. Last year we served 650 individuals who came seeking services, this year we are gearing up for about 800 to a thousand individuals coming in,” says Garand.

Garand says this one-stop shop for services is a big benefit for attendees.

“So if an individual can come to the Expo Center and they can connect with 10 or 12 services that they have been trying to get with, vocational rehabilitation, getting a state ID, getting a birth certificate, all of those things happening in one spot, it completely eliminates the need to transport to the Social Security office and back and that kind of thing,” Garand Says.

Free shuttles will be available to and from the Expo Center from locations across Springfield, including Park Central Square, The Missouri Hotel, and Veterans Coming Home.

A key to getting providing these services is informing members of the homeless community when and where the event will be.

“Well we have a great number of partners who provide direct services to the homeless, so of course we provide flyers and handbills and things like that to the libraries and the drop-in centers. But really our most successful promotion is word of mouth,” says Garand.

One of the major focuses going into this year’s event is helping homeless veterans in the Springfield community. This comes in the form of a new section called Veteran Village Stand Down. Among its services will be pairing each individual in need of help with a veteran volunteer.

“We have recruited volunteers who are veterans, so the veteran guides will be connected with veteran guests. And we have about 20 to 30 agencies directing services to those veterans this year, so it’s really powerful,” Garand says.

Additionally, Garand says approximately 650 volunteers have signed up to help individuals navigate the various services available. While no more volunteers are needed this year, Community Partnership of the Ozarks is now accepting volunteers for other events  through its website.

HOPE Connection will take place from 9am to 3pm Wednesday at the Springfield Expo Center, located at 635 E. St. Louis Street near downtown Springfield.