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"Project Homeless Connect" Offers Resources, Services

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The Department of Homeless Services marked Wednesday the third annual “Project Homeless Connect,” a two-day event designed to provide homeless New Yorkers with housing placements and social services. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

Edward Gabbidon, 40, has been living on the streets of Downtown Brooklyn for more than three years. On Wednesday, he says he was finally handed a new lease on life, trading in his home on the street for an apartment of his very own.

“I can't describe the feeling,” said Gabbidon. “You'd actually have to be in my body to actually feel the goose bumps that are going through me. I mean, three-and-a-half years without a decent place to live — a kitchen where I can cook, a shower where I can· my own shower. I mean, this is pretty awesome.”

Gabbidon had to go through an extensive process before he was awarded subsidized housing, but he's one of 25 people to benefit from a city collaboration called "Project Homeless Connect."

The two-day event is sponsored by the Department of Homeless Services and partnered with not-for-profit providers like the Brooklyn-based organization Common Ground. Its goal is to give homeless people access to housing placement and an assortment of other resources, like clothing and medical care. The event is held just as the cold weather arrives — a time when living on the street can really takes its toll.

“It's unbelievable,” said Rosanne Haggarty of Common Ground. “Can you imagine? Can you imagine living outside? It’s just so terrible, and so we hope that by really making this whole promise of housing so real for so many people today that it will really help to persuade people who've given up to work with us.”

The Department of Homeless Services issues a code blue emergency when temperatures fall below 32 degrees. That means outreach workers are out in full force, encouraging people to come indoors and monitoring those who don't.

“We're engaging people living on the streets all across the city, making sure they're safe. To the extent that they're not, that they're really at risk because of the way they're dressed or maybe they're wet or whatever, we're moving those folks indoors for their own safety,” said DHS Commissioner Robert Hess.

The last homeless count estimated nearly 3,000 people live on city streets — the bulk of them in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he hopes to find housing for more than two thirds of them before his term expires in two years.

- Amanda Farinacci
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