FMU students help Homeless Connect

Ashley Krause, Copy Editor

FMU undergraduate and graduate psychology students volunteered through a program called Homeless Connect, to bring mental health services to the underserved people in the Florence community.

Homeless Connect offers a variety of opportunities for the underserved to get their lives back on track. It takes place on the first Friday of every month from 9-11 a.m., at New Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Florence.

Dr. Ronald Murphy, professor of psychology, devotes his time by giving free mental health and counseling referrals to those who come to Homeless Connect.

Murphy said he brings psychology students to volunteer and get experience in the behavioral health field.

Taylor Whisnant, senior psychology major, said she started doing Homeless Connect because she wanted to get volunteer experience before going to graduate school.

“I heard about it in class, and I thought that I was too busy,” Whisnant said. “I ended up volunteering over the summer.”

FMU undergraduate students have the opportunity to guide those who come in to Homeless Connect to the stations that help each individual’s needs.

After her first time at Homeless Connect, Whisnant said she realized the opportunity would be something she could not say no to.

“I think the first time I volunteered was in June,” Whisnant said. “As soon as I started participating in the guiding portion, I knew I was going to be staying.”

According to Whisnant, the experience has opened her eyes to the different opportunities out there.

“There are new psychology students coming almost each month to volunteer and participate in the opportunities given to them,” Whisnant said.

Senior Destiny Robinson started attending Homeless Connect this month because she had heard about the opportunity from others around her.

“This was my first time volunteering at Homeless Connect, and I enjoyed it,” Robinson said. “Knowing that I am helping people, even though it is not much, fills my heart.”

Hadiya Manners, graduate psychology student, said the purpose of Homeless Connect is to reach the people who have not gotten the help they have needed in the past.

The graduate students help Murphy with the patient assessment before the patient’s counseling session begins.

“My job as a graduate student is to assess someone to see if they could benefit from mental health counseling,” Manners said. “Most people come in and they have a general idea that they may need some help.”

Murphy and the graduate students will take time to talk to the people who come in and help assess what is need in each individual situation.

“We spend a few minutes talking to them and taking notes,” Manners said. “If there is an undergraduate in the room, that is typically their job. From that interview we can assess what kind of help they may need. Dr. Murphy then makes referrals to mental health professionals in the community.”

There are several agencies that contribute to Homeless Connect such as Panera Bread, HopeHealth, SC Legal Services, the Naomi Project and the Pee Dee Area Veterans Advisory Council.

According to Manners, every agency that participates in Homeless Connect is there to help find a way to get people’s lives back on track.

“Each agency is there to catch those people who have slipped through the cracks,” Manners said.

Different organizations bring a variety of services to the event. Panera Bread donates its day-old bread for those who are having trouble affording food. SC Legal Services helps those who need assistance in figuring out legal trouble.

The Naomi Project seeks to bring long-term housing to women and children who have dealt with domestic abuse.

Some of the other organizations bring information on services that range from housing, medical care, hygiene items and resources for veterans.

According to Manners, everyone who volunteers is there for a reason.

“We are all there because we genuinely want to be there and because we believe in what we are doing,” Manners said.