Many of the things people take for granted every day — clean clothes, a toothbrush, a pair of glasses — are out of reach for the homeless.
Project Homeless Connect, a one-day event to provide services to the homeless and near-homeless, came Tuesday to Seaside. More than 40 nonprofit, governmental and faith-based agencies filled the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. Visitors could receive medical screenings, hearing tests, eye exams, immunizations, haircuts, personal care items, clothing vouchers and a hot meal.
Alan Evans of Helping Hands Re-entry Outreach Center distributed a basic toiletry kit, with tissue, toothpaste, soap and more. “We give people a nice little packet,” Evans said. “We want to make sure they have the necessities to stay clean and stay warm.”
Last year, Helping Hands distributed about 400 kits. Tuesday they expected at least that many. “It’s been a steady flow since we opened the door, and it’s only been an hour,” Evans said.
Sarah Mitchell and Michael McNickle of the Clatsop County Department of Public Health shared information on the county’s needle replacement program, which aims to stop the spread of infectious diseases through shared needles and syringes.
Molly Irons and Justin Abbott of Providence Seaside Hospital signed up families for the Healthy Smiles mobile dental van. The program offers free sealants, cleanings and dental work. “The goal is to get kids connected with their dental home care,” Abbott said.
Crystal Moody and Shawna Neumeister of The Harbor link victims of domestic violence to community resources, including legal and medical advocacy. While The Harbor does not offer a shelter in Clatsop County, they will provide confidential locations for emergency purposes, Neumeister said. “Hopefully our shelter will open this year,” she said. “In the meantime, sister agencies help to get them out of town.”
Marlin Martin, regional director of the Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank, offered visitors healthy snacks and food resource guides listing locations and times of emergency food outlets throughout the county. “Regardless of what community they reside in, they will have resources in an emergency to find food,” Martin said.
Grace Smith and Angie Wildt of Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District provided meal and program schedules at the Bob Chisholm Center, and free fitness classes, low-cost showers and pool passes.
Shirley Yates of Laundry Love participated as a volunteer at Homeless Connect for the first time.
Laundry Love, a national organization, came to Seaside five years ago with the aim of providing free laundry loads for families.
The program, held monthly at the Laundromat on South Roosevelt Drive, has grown “like crazy” over the last year, Yates said.
She hoped to raise awareness of the program and to make sure all people know about their services.
“The need is such an enormous one,” Yates said. “Having clean clothes is important for how you feel about yourself — we don’t realize it if we have a washer and dryer at our fingertips. For these people, it’s a health hazard not to have clean clothes.”