ANTIOCH -- For the thousands of Contra Costa County men, women and children who don't have places to call home on a given night, there is a great need for help.

However, accessibility to available services, or even knowing how to find them, is easier said than done.

That is why Contra Costa Health Services this week is again holding Project Homeless Connect, a "one-stop shop" for health, housing and social services.

"We bring all the resources under one roof," said Lavonna Martin, acting director of Contra Costa County's behavioral health homeless program. "Our goal is to ensure they walk away having received real assistance."

The eighth annual event rotates between Antioch, Richmond and Concord, with Wednesday's event at the county fairgrounds.

The event, which includes about 125 service providers and nonprofit groups, has grown from 600 attendees in the first year to more than 850 last fall. Organizers expect about 1,000 people to attend Wednesday.

Services provided include dental work, haircuts, pet vaccinations, free eyeglasses, legal advice, clothing, shoes, identification cards and a hot meal.

"There are a lot of us out here that really appreciate it," said Nancy Northup, a "horseless" Antioch resident who lives in an encampment near the waterfront. "There are a lot of things like new shoes or clothing, or dental or medical, that we can't get for ourselves."

Having all the services together is convenient, especially since for some "it's tough to get enough change just to catch the bus," Northup said.


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The number of homeless in Contra Costa County appears to have decreased.

A count taken in January, which reflects a snapshot in time, totaled 3,798 homeless individuals, which is down 11 percent.

The count of those homeless who are without shelter found that about 41 percent were in East Contra Costa, 31 percent in Central Contra Costa and 28 percent in West Contra Costa.

"The homeless are not strangers to our community, most of them are from the area," county Supervisor Federal Glover, of Pittsburg, said.

As the economy has deteriorated, the Homeless Connect events have attracted a growing number of families with small children and people ages 18 to 24 making the transition to adulthood.

"The face of the homeless population has changed," Glover said. "It used to be the homeless were males rolling carts down the street, but now you have families that are homeless. Maybe living out of cars or from couch to couch."

Many local homeless lost their homes to foreclosure.

"Once you get out here, it's hard to get back in the swing of things and save up enough for a first and last month's deposit," Northup said.

Local shelters still see about 8,000 people a day getting various services, Martin said.

"We've seen some positives, but it doesn't tell the full story in that there are many who access services year round in our community," Martin said.

Jennifer Baha, of Shelter Inc., said the number of those coming in for homeless service increased 38 percent over the last fiscal year, mainly veterans as the nonprofit has increased its outreach.

Shelter Inc. will be on hand Wednesday to help provide referral services for veterans, help them find out their eligibility for benefits and pass out hygiene kits.

They will also provide information about their family shelter and transitional housing programs, Baha said.

Buses will be available to shuttle folks from various county service centers to the event.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

If You Go:
What: Project Homeless Connect
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St., Antioch.
Cost: Free
More: Volunteers are still needed for the event. For more information, call 925-313-7700, visit www.cchealth.org/homeless or email projecthomelessconnect@hsd.cccounty.us.