By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
EVERETT — Back-to-school time is nearly two months away, but more than 1,000 people are expected at Cascade High School on Wednesday. They’ll come for help, not classes.
Project Homeless Connect is a day-long event offering homeless people free on-site services. The aim is to help with basic needs — food, shelter and health care — and a lot more.
Along with housing information, free medical and dental appointments, mental health support, and veterans and state Department of Social and Health Services benefits counseling, hair stylists will offer free haircuts and pet care will be available from Everett Animal Shelter volunteers. A free hot meal is also part of the day.
The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Cascade High School auditorium-cafeteria and gym.
“It drew pretty close to 1,200 people last year,” said Jess Kaufman, a Snohomish County human services specialist.
The annual event is a collaborative effort of the Snohomish County Human Services Department, the Snohomish Health District, the city of Everett, many nonprofit agencies and the Homeless Policy Task Force.
Professionals providing services will come from the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, the Evergreen AIDS Foundation, Catholic Community Services, the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross and the University of Washington.
Kaufman said exit surveys filled out at last year’s Project Homeless Connect showed that services used most were free backpacks filled with toiletries, the free lunch and housing information. The idea for Project Homeless Connect, which started in San Francisco in 2004, grew from the work of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, she said.
This will be the event’s fourth year in Everett. Proof of homelessness isn’t required, Kaufman said.
The 2012 Point in Time count of homeless people in Snohomish County found 2,382 without permanent places to stay. For hundreds of people, some from the streets and others from housing programs, Project Homeless Connect is a chance to get a free blood pressure check, or HIV testing, or long-needed dental treatment.
“And pet care, which is actually a big deal,” said Neil Parekh, a spokesman for United Way of Snohomish County. “There are a lot of people, truly homeless, who do have pets and wouldn’t be able to get that kind of care.”
The United Way provides volunteers to help people find what they need, Parekh said. About 100 volunteers have been recruited to help, said Svea Stromme, impacts and community investments senior manager with the local United Way.
Some of them will lend volunteer Jim Gregoire a hand preparing a chicken teriyaki and rice lunch for more than 1,000 people. “This will be the fourth year I’ve taken care of that small part of it,” Gregoire said. He figures out portions, secures food donations, and shops for needed supplies.
A 40-year old Everett engineer who once worked in the restaurant industry, Gregoire is taking Wednesday off work to be at Project Homeless Connect.
One aspect of the lunch that’s important to Gregoire is serving people in a way that respects their dignity.
“We bring them water, and collect the food and drop it off. It’s not a food line,” he said. “Many of these people have gone through that a lot.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services will include medical and dental appointments, haircuts, housing information, pet care, drug and alcohol assessments, mental health support, benefit help, a free meal and more.