A newcomer to Denver, marketing consultant Adrienne Spuzzillo was looking to make a connection to the community when she contacted Mile High United Way.
That’s how she ended up wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and escorting Robert Martin through the Colorado Convention Center Thursday. Spuzzillo was among more than 750 volunteers recruited to work with people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity at the annual Project Homeless Connect Denver.
“I live downtown in Denver and I see how homelessness impacts,” said Spuzzillo, who moved here from Cincinnati three months ago. “I can’t just sit there and do nothing.”
Her job Thursday was to offer advice and support to Martin as he distributed his crisp resume at a job fair that was part of Project Homeless Connect.
“She’s helping me navigate and strategize,” Martin said.
“I’ve been struggling since February of 2012, trying to get it together,” he said, adding health problems have made it hard to hold a job.
According to his resume, he is a “skilled warehouse and logistics specialist looking to provide excellent interpersonal, customer service and organization skills to serve clients efficiently in a fast-paced manufacturing environment.”
The 59-year-old is also an Army veteran who, after sleeping on the streets and in his car last month, got housing through the HUD-VASH Program, which combines permanent federal Housing and Urban Development rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
Denver Human Services and Denver’s Road Home — the latter coordinates homelessness services in the city — said in a statement Thursday that 515 people took part in the job fair and 157 got job offers on the spot, more than double the offers in 2017. Project Homeless Connect Denver is coordinated by Denver’s Road Home and Mile High United Way and supported by We Don’t Waste, Regis University and the U.S. Bank Foundation.
In addition to networking at the job fair, participants could get a vision, blood pressure or mental health check or an HIV test, have lunch, and pick up a winter coat, a bag of toiletries or reading glasses.
“It’s great to hear someone say, ‘Wow, I can actually see to fill out a job application now,'” said Daniel Feldman, who edits Optical Business News and was volunteering at the eye station. He’s also volunteered at a similar event in San Francisco.
“As busy as this is, it’s a ghost town compared to the need in San Francisco,” he said.
About 1,400 people attended the Denver event, Denver Human Services and Denver’s Road Home said. Since 2006, Project Homeless Connect has served some 16,000 people.
Dana Zimmer, part of a team of Regis nursing student volunteers, checked feet for blisters or sores that could be dangerous.
“If someone’s walking around all day, they might just let it go,” she said.
Tracy Davis, who has been sleeping at the Delores Project Shelter, had her blood pressure checked and got advice on her medications before sitting down with Zimmer, who offered her a pair of socks after she finished the examination.
Veterinarian Carolyn Karrh offered pet checkups, some to animal companions whose owners also bring them to the monthly clinics that her nonprofit Peace, Love and Paws holds at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Most of her patients Thursday were dogs.
“We had one rabbit today,” she said. “We’ve seen a ferret before, too.”
Karrh said she came to her first Project Homeless Connect a few years ago at a friend’s urging just to see what it was, not to volunteer.
“It was so moving to me to walk through here and see so many organizations volunteering to help people who really need it,” she said.
Army veteran Martin did not get a job offer. But he was optimistic about the contacts he made among recruiters from companies such as Amazon and manufacturer TruStile Doors. After pausing for an interview, Spuzzillo got him back on track.
“Do you want to talk to King Soopers? Or no?
“All right, let’s get back in there.”