Event helps low-income people get badly needed services
Annabelle Sangim, 3, of Everett tries on a pair of boots as she looks over at Wyatt Lai, 3, who was showing off his new red and black “ladybug” boots at the free shoes area of this year's annual Homeless Connect event on Thursday, July 10.
EVERETT — They came from all corners of Snohomish County to get their needs met.
About 1,300 people were served at last week’s Project Homeless Connect one-stop shop for the homeless and low-income at Evergreen Middle School in Everett.
The Thursday, July 10 event included 84 service organizations, free dental work, a lunch and organizers dispensed a range of badly needed items such as shoes.
For many people, new glasses and haircuts at Project Homeless Connect were popular. Under tents outside, their pets got flea treatments, rabies shots and other needed vaccinations.
Mike Williams, a 47-year-old from Everett, received glasses and a lunch, but nobody could offer him the biggest thing he needs: a roof over his head.
There was a shortfall of housing offerings at this year’s Project Homeless Connect for the crush of people who came hoping for a home.
Williams has been “roughing it” in south Everett the past three years when his work as a contractor diminished during the Great Recession and now he has his 21-year-old disabled son with him.
“If you’re a woman, you’ve got housing. If you’re a guy, you’re screwed,” Williams said with disdain. He’d already been told by housing officials earlier that morning there’s nothing for him.
The gender lines, though, weren’t that clear-cut.
“Suzy,” a woman who did not want her real name in print, was approaching her third hour that morning waiting for assistance to find out if her daughter Ashley, 21, could get housing.
Pregnant and homeless, Ashley is a week away from her due date. Neither her mom nor grandmother have the capacity to house her.
The anxiousness of being pregnant and homeless is immense.
“You have no idea,” Ashley said, declining to talk much more than that.
For many low-income people, access to housing isn’t simply writing that first month’s rent check, but a maze of hurdles including credit score checks, criminal background checks and a big upfront fee.
A basic minimum wage job isn’t enough to secure someone an everyday renting situation, Suzy said — not with landlords asking a standard first and last month’s rent on top of the monthly rent, all of which triples the cost of entering a place to live.
A small smattering of women with children found housing at the event. Seven newly homeless households received rapid rehousing, and seven households with eviction notices in hand received prevention help. Ten households found placement at the Everett Gospel Mission Women’s Shelter.
There were more than 100 people looking for housing help, though. As the event neared the end that afternoon, a gaggle of people waiting for help were going to be told there’s no housing left.
Men were left in the dark completely as no services for single men were available.
“It’s one of the struggles for men,” Volunteers of America’s director of operations of basic needs Sharon Paskewitz said. “We have housing for women, but not men.”
In just five minutes, two men were turned away and, like all others, were told to call 211, a local resources hot line.
The VOA has navigators, but those navigators are funded to only work with women with children.
At the event, people received vision care, medical checkups, housing assistance, mental health help and other services.
A “veterans stand down” room with services specifically geared for ex-military members gave this group peace of mind.
Outside, a long line of people sought dental checkups and care.
The Seattle nonprofit Redeeming Soles was back with more than 1,000 pairs of gently used shoes that a steady flow of people picked up. What’s leftover will go to the Everett Gospel Mission.
“They’ve been going like hot cakes,” Redeeming Soles’ director Jessica Reasy said.
Clients were given backpacks filled with toiletries provided largely by the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound .
The toothbrush and toothpaste in that backpack will be a big help for Jim, a 44-year-old who camps alongside the Snohomish River who didn’t want his last name in print.
Jim handles the winter months by using extra sleeping bags in his tent.
Corrine, a mom from Snohomish who declined to give her last name, had her five sons in tow as they browsed shoes and later got haircuts.
They beelined to the backpacks first.
“It’s a big saver,” Corrine said, later mentioning, “When the kids start school, they’ll have backpacks and that’s a help.”
The Salvation Army Northwest Division arranged to have the state Department of Licensing work with people to get free identification cards.
Without identification, people can’t get access to social services, Salvation Army Lt. Col. Harold Brodin said. An identification card can cost up to $54, and the Salvation Army picked up the tab.
The nonprofit also gave away 27 boxes of toiletries.
Volunteers from Banfield Animal Hospitals, the Everett Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) and Everett Animal Shelter saw more than 120 dogs and cats, ARF’s director Amy Ferguson said.
“A lot of homeless people have pets - and a lot of these animals have probably never seen a vet,” Everett Animal Shelter operations coordinator Dee Cordell said.
“We’re grateful for all the services being provided,” said Jaclyn, a woman from Everett missing many of her teeth. “For all us unemployed people with no income, it could be years before we get these services.”
She was grappling with Mack, a hefty and friendly Golden Retriever.
Meanwhile, everybody in the haircutting room seemed excited by Sean Sanchez’s unique haircut: Sanchez got the Nike swoosh put in the back of his hair.
It uses a double fade, said a volunteer hair stylist from Paroba College, a hair and nail salon training academy on Everett Mall Way. Northwest Hair Academy also had stylists present to give free haircuts.
Sanchez, a bouncy, excitable 20-year-old, was happy with the cut.
His day at Project Homeless Connect was “flipping awesome,” he said. “I got my swoosh, I got my backpack, I got my garlic bread (with lunch).”
His buddy Pancho Garcia, 23, said he “got some ‘bomb’ spaghetti, and met up with people I haven’t seen in a long time,” including “one enemy, but he didn’t even look at me,” Garcia said.
It might have been all smiles that day, but Sanchez and Garcia will eventually go home to a tent hidden away in Lynnwood, as Garcia described it.
Snohomish County’s annual Point in Time homeless count, which gives a snapshot of the local homeless population, found 1,600 people from more than 1,100 households without a permanent place to stay. An estimated 314 were homeless children and 71 were homeless veterans.