College of Podiatric Medicine students distributed about 700 pairs of shoes on Dec. 10 during Project Homeless Connect, a multi-agency project providing access to job opportunities, housing, medical care, pet care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and more.

“Podiatry is critically important,” said Pomona Homeless Services Coordinator Jan Cicco. “Many people coming here have diabetes and are walking around in bad shoes and no socks, so they develop serious problems with their feet. We’re grateful to have Western here.”

Organizers expected about 500 people to attend this year, and the demand for services has increased, Cicco said. The fourth-annual event was held at Pomona First Christian Church by the city of Pomona, Los Angeles County, the Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Pomona Continuum of Care Coalition and Pomona residents.

Podiatry students collected about 700 pairs of shoes during an on-campus shoe drive. Other agencies will take the remaining shoes and distribute them, said Adrienne Estes, DPM ’13.

Though in the middle of finals, about 20 students took time away from their studies to volunteer throughout the day.

“I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome,” said Trevor Black, DPM ’13. “Hopefully next year we will get even more shoes.”

The shoes were placed in neat rows for visitors to look through, try on, and take. The shoe recipients were grateful for the footwear, and the students appreciated the reminder of why they are entering the health professions.

As a student, you become focused on passing exams and studying, said Lisa Doan, DPM ’13, so “It’s good to step back and realize there are other people out there who need your help,” she said.

Project Homeless Connect also provided clothing, hot food, housing information and referrals, hygiene supplies, TB and flu shots and many other services.

A growing number of families can’t afford housing, said Reggie Clark, program supervisor of Pomona Homeless Outreach.

“The main thing is we want them to get connected with services,” Clark said. “We don’t expect a one-day miracle. Just giving them stuff is not serving a purpose. We want them to become self sufficient.”