Homeless Connect serves thousands as winter approaches

Twice a year, hundreds of volunteers provide dental exams, hot meals and warm clothing to Edmonton's less fortunate.
Over 400 volunteers provided hair cuts, handed out warm clothing and provided counselling during the Homeless Connect event (CBC News)

Thousands of people packed into the Shaw Conference Centre Sunday as volunteers gave free haircuts, eye exams and other services to Edmonton’s homeless.

Mark Robichaud, getting a free haircut at Homeless Connect, says such services are vital for people hoping to get off Edmonton's streets. (CBC News)

"The entire day is intended to be very supportive, very respectful," said  Susan McGee, Executive Director of Homeward Trust Edmonton

"We have over 400 volunteers that help us put on the event. So their experience of the event is very positive. And it's very uplifting."

Twice a year, Homeless Connect offers free services, supplies and counselling to the city’s less fortunate.

Mark Robichaud lives in shelters and does temporary construction work. He came to Homeless Connect for the first time Sunday and was soon seated in a barber’s chair.

"It’s important, important for getting a full-time job. Look at me, I don’t look like myself," he said.

"You get the kind of stuff you need right now. For me, that was socks, and a haircut and maybe some counselling,"

McGee says, with winter approaching, the fall event is usually the busiest with around 1,800 people arriving for help this year.

"We do work with organizations like the Mustard Seed to get coats donated and clothing donated. So a lot of people coming knowing it's getting colder out and they're preparing for the winter," she said.

At last count, there were about 2,500 homeless people living in Edmonton.