Socktoberfest: Small steps in warm feet to end homelessness

Bratwurst, root beer and a thousand pairs of socks won’t transform lives. With miserable weather on the way, they will make a small but real difference to people who are homeless.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” said Tim Knopf, one of the organizers of Socktoberfest.

A project of the Emmaus Community, a mission group at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett, the fourth annual Socktoberfest will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Trinity Lutheran College. The college is at 2802 Wetmore Ave. in downtown Everett.

Socktoberfest was started in 2011 as a welcoming one-night event, with live music, a hearty dinner and a chance for students, volunteers and people who live on the streets to come together. New socks, many donated at area churches, will be available to people needing them.

The Emmaus group and the college team up to invite homeless people to three annual events. In July, it’s “A Midsummer’s Ice Cream,” and in March it’s “Rides of March,” with an Irish stew dinner and free Everett Transit bus tickets.

“It’s three little drops in the bucket during the course of the year,” said Knopf, a retired teacher who lives in Everett.

Socktoberfest was started with the help of Debbie Paget, an assistant librarian at Trinity Lutheran College. In her previous work as an Everett Public Library technician, Paget met a number of homeless people. The idea for the sock giveaway came from them.

Paget was having coffee several years ago with the Rev. Erik Samuelson, Trinity Lutheran College’s pastor, and Sean Bendickson, another Emmaus member. They talked about ways to help homeless people, including an idea for a food pantry. Paget went back to the Everett library and asked some homeless people directly.

They answered her question about what would help with a simple request: new socks.

The Everett branch of Soroptimist International supports Socktoberfest, and Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. provides locally brewed root beer. Knopf said about 150 people were served last year.

This year, the issue of homelessness in Everett is getting lots of attention because of the city’s Community Streets Initiative. Since late July, a task force of local leaders, business owners and service providers have been meeting every other Thursday in the Weyerhaeuser Room at Everett Station to seek solutions to street-level social issues, including homelessness. Two more 3 p.m. meetings are scheduled, Oct. 30 and Nov. 13, and they are open to the public.

At the Oct. 2 meeting, streets initiative task force members Mark Mantei, chief operating officer of The Everett Clinic, and Julie Zarn, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, gave accounts of a Sept. 23 gathering at the Everett Gospel Mission Men’s Shelter. About 40 homeless people participated in the focus group led by Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission. Anderson is also co-chairwoman of the streets initiative task force.

Zarn, director of emergency and trauma services at Providence, and Mantei shared with the task force some of what the homeless people had said. Both said they heard about a lack of outpatient mental health services.

And like Paget, Zarn heard the humanity beyond the label of “homeless.”

“I was impressed and touched that the homeless care about and find the same things to be important in their lives that I do,” Zarn told the task force. “They want to be involved and have friends. They don’t want to be involved with drugs and alcohol, although some are. They are concerned about safety and theft.”

Zarn heard concerns about barriers to jobs and housing, including criminal records. She heard gratitude for the Everett shelter and for law enforcement. And she heard about the hurt caused by perceptions.

“They do not like to be stereotyped or called names, and they’re hurt by this,” Zarn said. “And none wants to be homeless.”

As Everett looks at the big picture, and for solutions to homelessness and other social issues, the folks putting on Socktoberfest want to bring a little cheer and some practical help, however small.

“I have a drawer full of socks,” Paget said. “I just take things so for granted.”

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

Socktoberfest

Socktoberfest, which provides dinner and new socks to homeless people, will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Trinity Lutheran College, 2802 Wetmore Ave., Everett. All are welcome.

New-sock donations may be dropped at the college and at Trinity Lutheran Church, 2324 Lombard Ave., Everett; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 215 Mukilteo Blvd., Everett; Everett First Covenant Church, 4502 Rucker Ave.; Warm Beach Free Methodist Church, 20815 Marine Drive, Stanwood; and Freeborn Lutheran Church, 2304 300th St., Stanwood.

Checks, for sock purchases, may be mailed to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 2927, Everett WA 98213. Information: www.socktoberfest.org

Everett Community Streets Initiative: www.everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=2205

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