Liberty Community Services, a New Haven nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness, hosted its ninth annual Project Style fundraiser on Thursday evening.
The event was hosted at the headquarters of Alexion Pharmaceuticals on College Street . It featured a silent auction and cocktails, in addition to a fashion show displaying local models, fashion boutiques and new outfits made by New Haven designer Neville Wisdom. Over 150 people attended the event, which organizers hoped will raise $33,000, though the final tally was not taken on Thursday.
“[Many of our clients] have lost a job or run out of disability [insurance],” said LCS Executive Director John Bradley. “There is a mismatch between what they can earn and how much housing costs in New Haven.”
Bradley said the money raised through Project Style will fund Liberty’s year-round programing, which includes finding permanent housing, rent assistance and running employment programs and Sunrise Cafe, a free breakfast cafe in the basement of an Olive Street church.
Bradley said that LCS clients are homeless for a number of different reasons including medical disabilities, addiction issues, HIV or economic troubles. The nonprofit works with about 500 people a year and provides housing for around 200.
Visitors to the fashion show fundraiser made bids on auction items such as New Haven restaurant gift cards, baking and yoga lessons and local crafts and jewelry.
Stephanie Siow ’17, who modeled at the event, said she has been volunteering at Sunrise Cafe for more than a year. When she was asked by LCS staff to help with the show, she did not realize she would be on the runway.
Siow said she especially enjoys the cafe’s mission of providing “breakfast with dignity,” as patrons are served fresh-cooked pancakes and sausages rather than leftovers. She added that the cafe is the easiest way for Yale students to get involved with Liberty Community Services.
Wisdom, the event’s lead designer and owner of the clothing label “Neville Wisdom,” said he has been working with LCS for around seven years. Some of his outfits modeled at the show were designed specifically for the event, while others are part of his spring and summer collection, he said.
Lauren Sprague, the event’s stage manager as well as the brand director and clothing stylist at “Neville Wisdom,” said Wisdom’s team has been creating clothing items over the last few months and has spent recent weeks tailoring and preparing for the show.
Among the event attendees were Chris Alexander and Dawn Gans, a formerly homeless couple who received assistance from LCS.
Alexander said he met Bradley when Alexander was making a living selling copies of the New Haven Register on the street while living in a tent with Gans, his girlfriend. Bradley frequently bought him coffee and spoke with him, he said. When Alexander revealed that he was homeless, Bradley helped him obtain housing vouchers.
“I don’t think John even realized how many people he has helped,” Alexander said. “He takes everyone at face value and doesn’t judge them. We finally had him over for lunch a few weeks ago. It felt so nice to not be homeless and to be able to give something back.”