KCBS In Depth: SF Homeless Program Fields Inquiries From Anxious Loved Ones

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homeless panhandle

A homeless man holds a sign as he panhandles for spare change in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – It’s been nearly a decade since the San Francisco Department of Public Health created Project Homeless Connect, as a way to bring necessary services to the homeless.

Lately, though, the agency’s role has evolved – increasingly, Project Homeless Connect is the starting point for those searching for loved ones believed to be living on the streets of San Francisco.

Since 2004, the nonprofit has been attempting to coordinate everything from medicine to ID cards for those who are without a place to call home.

“About 17 to 20% of the people we serve are vets and a lot of people call us from other states saying ‘you know, my dad is a vet and I’m just looking everywhere for him, can you help us?’ And that’s so heartbreaking,” said executive director Kara Zordel.

Frantic parents also call, looking for their children.

“Can you imagine, as a parent, not knowing where your teenage son is? I’ve been doing this for 15 years, only two in San Francisco, but probably in the last six months I’ve gotten more calls than all of the years combined,” Zordel offered. “And if you go into our office, we’ve actually started putting up a bulletin board for people who are looking for family members.”

And the effort continues, of course, to treat some of the root causes of homelessness.

“Mental issues and sometimes drug issues that really pull families apart, and so if maybe they can connect to us and then we find out, maybe they’ll start trusting again and we can connect them to larger community groups or even to their family if they’re ready some day,” said Zordel.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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