Crowd gathers at Bill Graham Auditorium for Project Homeless Connect 

Hundreds of homeless people lined up near San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza on Wednesday morning to receive help ranging from eye exams to voice mail service — all compliments of the latest Project Homeless Connect.

The event, a service fair that has been held quarterly since 2004, is expected to bring about 2,000 clients and 1,000 volunteers to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium throughout the day, event spokesman Kevin McCormack said.

The one-stop shop offers medical exams and information about shelters, government benefits, employment, identification cards, probation and more.

Volunteers use the event, now in its 38th iteration, to try to steer clients into long-term services and, in the best cases, get them off the streets.

“What you’re doing today is part of the history of this city,” Mayor Ed Lee told a group of volunteers, many of them sipping coffee, in the balcony of the auditorium as clients lined up outside.

“We’ve always found a way to do things differently,” he said.

Former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is now the state’s lieutenant governor, conceived of the project as a way to combat San Francisco’s relentless homeless problem, Lee said.

About 220 other cities are now trying to replicate the program, which has served 31,000 homeless people. Lee advised the volunteers to look for private moments with the clients when they can let them know there’s a way out.

“It’s a great opportunity to change a life,” he said.

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