Agencies, others band together to help county’s needy

It’s been a week of worry for Amber Dabney. Rent was raised $100 at the Everett apartment where she and her family have lived for seven years.

Monthly rent is now $800 for the 850-square-foot apartment she shares with her partner and two daughters, ages 5 and 9. Her partner said he lost his manufacturing job. Dabney said she suffers from multiple sclerosis. On Wednesday, a notice arrived — “three-day pay or vacate,” she said.

Dabney was among more than 1,300 people seeking help Thursday at Project Homeless Connect. The annual day-long event was held this year at Everett’s Evergreen Middle School.

Project Homeless Connect is put on by United Way of Snohomish County, the Snohomish Health District, Snohomish County Human Services, the city of Everett and many nonprofit organizations.

Neil Parekh, a United Way spokesman, said 1,301 people were helped Thursday, about 100 more than last year. There were 84 agencies, with 258 staff and 268 volunteers.

Dabney and her family waited in the Evergreen gym to talk with Volunteers of America Western Washington staff about rental assistance.

Sharon Paskewitz, VOA’s director of operations for basic needs services, said funding determines how many can be helped. The agency offers rental assistance to prevent homelessness, as well as shelter and other programs.

Homelessness was the overarching issue Thursday, but services reached far beyond housing.

Mike Hodgson and Melissa Barnett don’t have a home, but their priority Thursday was “Chubby,” their long-haired Chihuahua. “He needs flea treatment and catching up on shots,” said Hodgson, 48. The couple handed their pup into the welcoming arms of an Everett Animal Shelter volunteer.

Stephanie Anderson, 25, looked at shoes for her three children while waiting for her number to be called for dental help. Four mobile dental clinics, from Medical Teams International, were parked outside the school. “I have four bad teeth,” said Anderson, who also needed domestic violence services and legal help. Her children, two boys and a girl, are ages 4, 3 and 4 months old.

Matthew Clark, whose dental work was finished, looked through boxes of shoes to find size 10 and a half. He’s no longer homeless, and said he quit using drugs six years ago. He was grateful for dental care he said he can’t afford with his Social Security Disability income.

New and gently used shoes — 1,123 pairs — were donated by Seattle-based Redeeming Soles. “It warms my heart to find homes for so many shoes, and shoes for so many people,” said Jessica Reasy, the nonprofit group’s executive director.

Signs in one Evergreen hallway pointed to a “Veterans Stand Down.”

Jerry Gadek, a veterans service officer with Snohomish County Human Services, said the event was promoted as a “Stand Down” providing services for vets. He said otherwise some veterans might not come to Project Homeless Connect. Help included information about veterans benefits, housing and legal resources from the Northwest Justice Project and the state Attorney General’s office.

Adrianne Wagner, an Everett Clinic quality improvement manager, volunteered with her co-workers. She helped people fill out exit surveys. When they completed the surveys, they received new backpacks filled with toiletries.

“We have 1,200 backpacks,” Wagner said. Many were purchased with a donation from the Boeing Employees Community Fund.

“Every year they manage to improve it,” Wagner said of Project Homeless Connect, which also offered vision screening and eyeglasses, foot care, haircuts and a hot meal served in the cafeteria.

Kristin Kinnamon, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman, said the agency provided TB and hepatitis C testing, and free immunizations. Citing 2011 research from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, she said the average life expectancy for a homeless person is 41.

People of all ages waited in line to get professional haircuts.

Stylists from Everett’s Paroba College and from Northwest Hair Academy snipped and combed, while clients gazed at their new images.

Northwest Hair Academy instructor Cole Whitaker said it was quite a change for students used to cutting hair in class.

“It’s an emotional experience, to cut hair for someone who hasn’t felt they look good in a long time,” he said. “It’s really touching.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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