SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A major humanitarian effort is underway in downtown San Diego Wednesday. Local leaders and volunteers are coming together to help those most in need in the community.
San Diego's Project Homeless Connect provides donated clothes, blankets, toiletries and essential services under one roof for those who may not have a roof over their heads.
“It can happen to anyone. Becoming homeless does not discriminate age, gender, race anyone can become homeless, anytime," said Luis Barrios with the San Diego Housing Commission.
Dorothea and Bob Sontag are military veterans who served our country in the Navy and Air Force. They have been married for 40 years.
"I'm trying to find a job,” said Dorothea
They say life has been tough living in a homeless encampment the last two years after leg injuries led to amputation and financial misfortune led to evictions.
"We had a landlady that was getting rid of all the veterans turned around in the complex and I was the first,” continued Dorothea.
Courage to Call is one of many organizations trying to help them Wednesday.
"I could be that vet. I love helping others out there,” Henry Flores with Courage to Call said.
Project Homeless Connect, coordinated by the San Diego Housing Commission, has temporarily taken over Golden Hall in downtown San Diego, providing a one-stop shop for hundreds of homeless men, women, and children. At this event, they'll be able to receive health screenings and dental check-ups, haircuts and flu shots, as wells as one-on-one legal assistance, housing help, ID cards from the DMV, enrollment in Covered California and more.
“They can sign up for benefits assistance enrollment with the county. There are a number of mental health service providers that will be here,” explained Melissa Peterman with the San Diego Housing Commission.
Organizers anticipate that approximately 800 to 900 San Diegans will take advantage of Project Homeless Connect, which this year is debuting a new computerized data management system funded by a federal grant. This will provide a high-tech way of allowing local social service agencies to coordinate the care they offer clients and share information in an effort to streamline their services.
"People can put their name on a database and putting their name out there, it's all about technology and getting together. We've never been able to do that,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
According to Project Homeless Connect, 39 percent of the homeless population lives on the streets of San Diego while 28 percent live in emergency shelters or transitional housing.
One woman at the event lost her job bartending and directly asked Mayor Faulconer about housing.
"We need to have low income housing. He's the man for this time. He needs to fix He has all these high rises. He can take one building and make the rent low," she told CBS News 8.
Project Homeless Connect says the numbers are staggering: 11 percent are families with children, 15 percent are military veterans and more than 50 percent have medical conditions and disabilities.
Tuesday, councilmember Todd Gloria announced that federal grants totally $16 million have been awarded to a number of local social service agencies to assist the homeless, including nearly $1.9 million to the San Diego Housing Commission.
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Some of the footage used in this video story was shot using a GoPro camera.