Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, founder of the Hope One mobile substance abuse recovery vehicle, joined 42 service providers Thursday in offering resources to homeless and at-risk individuals at the annual Project Homeless Connect Program.
Gannon and Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo were among several officials who greeted a crowd of customers at the opening ceremony for Project Homeless Connect in the parish hall of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.
Gannon noted the Hope One van – which has parked twice a week since April 2, 2017, in fixed locations throughout Morris County to offer support, resources and Narcan training to people struggling to overcome opioid or other substance addictions – was on scene outside the church.
Gannon also cited his new STAR program, designed to give inmates at the Morris County Correctional Facility educational, housing and employment resources to successfully re-enter society after their incarcerations.
“The first thing we need to do is get a roof over their heads because it’s hard to be sober when you’re living at large,” Gannon told the crowd.
“We care for everybody. Your families are our families,” Gannon said.
Referring to all the providers, he said: “In this room, we can do magic, with all these people who are like-minded.”
Project Homeless Connect, a day-long program to assist the homeless and people at risk of losing housing, is sponsored and organized by the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties.
The county’s 2018 annual Homeless Point In Time Count, an organized tally of the number of individuals without a home on January 23, 2018, was 398 people.
Providers were available to discuss housing options, mental health assistance, employment, energy assistance and substance abuse issues. Customers were given free haircuts, toiletries, health care screenings, backpacks and T-shirts.
Representatives of Operation Chillout, which assists homeless veterans, handed out backpacks filled with warm clothing. In November of 2018, Operation Chillout donated 50 backpacks to Sheriff Gannon’s Hope One van.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Ashley Craig manned a Hope One booth at the event, passing out literature and resource information, with assistance from a peer recovery specialist and Ashley Reed, a care navigator for Navigating Hope.
Navigating Hope, a mobile social service enterprise modeled after Hope One, is a partnership between the Morris County Department of Human Services and the non-profit Family Promise. Navigating Hope is expected to launch its van to bring services to homeless people and individuals with mental health issues in February.