The not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) and Douglass Community Services, in cooperation with the Missouri Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness and regional social service and business partners, hope to raise awareness about issues facing people with no permanent address during Project Homeless Connect.

It’s called couch surfing, but it’s far from being a game.

The term refers to homeless people in Northeast Missouri who spend a few nights in one location before moving to another, sometimes repeating the cycle over and over.

The not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) and Douglass Community Services, in cooperation with the Missouri Governor’s Committee to End Homelessness and regional social service and business partners, hope to raise awareness about issues facing people with no permanent address during Project Homeless Connect.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Mabee Sports Complex at Hannibal-LaGrange University.

“We want people who are homeless or close to it to know that there is help and that there are resources in Northeast Missouri who can help,” said NECAC Deputy Director for Community Service Programs Janice Robinson. “We will offer a variety of free services and information.”

Numbers are hard to come by, but estimates put the homeless population of Missouri at 8,000 to more than 10,000 people. Many go unnoticed because they have jobs, are staying with friends or have minimal support outside traditional agencies that serve the disadvantaged.

Whether it is people who are living out of their cars, inside abandoned buildings, under highway overpasses, vacated parks or isolated woods and campgrounds, the problem is tied to the poverty rate, which has held steady or risen slightly the last few years in many Northeast Missouri counties. The National Coalition for the Homeless says poverty and homelessness are “inextricably” linked.

One place the disadvantaged hang out in Hannibal is the former Riverfront Amphitheater property just south of Nipper Park, where national rock and country music acts used to perform.

“As the economy improves, more people are working their way out of tough situations,” Robinson said. “But there are still many people who have fallen through the cracks, and we want to reach out to them.”

Free services that will be provided during Project Homeless Connect include general physicals, dental, vision and hearing screenings, skin tests, women’s health exams, budget counseling, home ownership programs and more.

Privacy will be provided for some services, and there will be a kids’ zone where parents may register their children while visiting booths.

Free roundtrip transportation will be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The service will start at the top of each hour at Central Park at Fifth and Broadway. It will then proceed to Union and Highway 79 at 10 minutes past, Ringer Park at Main and Warren Barrett Industrial Drive at 20 minutes past and the Shirley Bomar Community Center at 253 Munger Lane at 30 past the hour. A one-time only round-trip shuttle will leave the Hope House homeless shelter, 1903 Hope Street, at 8 a.m. People who plan to use the OATS bus for transport must make arrangements the evening before the event by calling 1-800-654-6287.

Participating partners include the Missouri Housing Development Commission, Help at Home, Families and Communities Together (FACT), Missouri Department of Social Services Family Services Division, Missouri Department of Mental Health, AVENUES, Salvation Army, Hannibal Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Missouri Career Center, North East Independent Living Services (NEILS), Mark Twain Behavioral Health, Legal Services of Northeast Missouri, Hannibal Board of Public Works, USDA Rural Development, Liberty Utilities, Hope House, Hannibal Housing Authority, Manpower, Social Security Administration, Preferred Family Healthcare, Clarity Healthcare, Hannibal Clinic, Hannibal Medical Group, Hannibal Regional Medical Center, Hannibal Free Clinic and the Marion County Health Department.