June 6, 2012
Change 4 Real Change aims to support services for homeless
Change 4 Real Change, a new program designed to support services for the homeless in Concord and discourage panhandling, launches June 14 in conjunction with the Project Homeless Connect event at Willow Pass Center, 2748 East Olivera Road.
The Change 4 Real Change program originated with Concord Mayor Ron Leone. "We recognize that many people are sympathetic with the plight of the homeless; however the common practice of giving money directly to the homeless is all too often counterproductive. When we give money directly to the homeless, we are enabling them to stay on our streets instead of encouraging them to seek the help that so many of them need," he said. Leone brought together the Concord Police Department and City staff, Project Hope, Central County Homeless Outreach, Mechanics Bank, faith-based organizations and other stakeholders to develop the program.
Change 4 Real Change includes a voucher program and a spare change collection program. Concord residents can purchase a book of five vouchers for $5 from local retailers. Each voucher is good for transportation to a homeless service center and a hot meal. Residents are encouraged to give the vouchers to homeless people instead of spare change. Residents can also put spare change in Change 4 Real Change collection jars as an alternative to giving the change directly to a homeless person. The money from the sale of the vouchers and the change collected from the containers goes to Project Hope and the Central County Homeless Outreach program to fund services.
"Homeless people asking for spare change often collect just enough to stay on the street," says Doug Stewart of Central County Homeless Outreach. "The longer they stay on the street, the less likely it is that they will get a job or find a permanent home. On average, homeless people are more frequent users of emergency rooms and die 30 years sooner than people who are not on the street."
It is appropriate that the new program debuts at the June 14 Project Homeless Connect event, which is a one-stop shop aimed at helping homeless residents of Contra Costa County become self-sufficient and provides free health and social services, as well as legal assistance. The event puts food, medical and dental care, substance abuse programs, shelter information and more all under one roof for a day. For the second year in a row, the event will feature legal assistance from the Clean Slate Clinic, which helps people overcome barriers to employment resulting from criminal convictions. Project Homeless Connect is presented by Contra Costa Health Services.
For more information about Change 4 Real Change, visit www.change4realchange.org.