Shakarra Borchgrevink, a mother of four little boys, has taken shelter with family and friends. In decent weather, she has lived in a tent in her grandparents’ back yard.
“I just got into low-income housing,” the 26-year-old Everett woman said Thursday.
A year ago, she came to Project Homeless Connect for help finding a place to live. On Thursday, Borchgrevink returned to the annual one-day event, staged this year at Everett’s Evergreen Middle School. “We’ve gotten dental care, diapers and lots of support,” said Borchgrevink, whose boys are ages 1 to 7.
With sons Kiylyin, Daviyion, Tazaughn and Aidien in tow, she said the Everett Housing Authority helped them get an apartment three months ago. That process began last July at Project Homeless Connect, where Borchgrevink said she was put on a waiting list for housing.
Organized by United Way of Snohomish County, Project Homeless Connect provides direct services — haircuts, dental care, health screenings and benefits referrals — along with free meals, backpacks and much more to hundreds of people in need.
“I come every year,” said Phelan Little, 60, who was at Evergreen with his sister and her 6-year-old grandson, Taylor. Little has a home in Marysville, but said the help is appreciated. Housing “costs an arm and a leg,” he said. His family left the event with shoes from the Seattle-based nonprofit Redeeming Soles.
Also finding shoes was Diana Severich, 41, who said she had lost her job in medical billing. “I’m homeless right now. I live in a tent, me and my boyfriend,” she said.
Jessica Reasy, Redeeming Soles executive director, said the group brought 2,150 pairs of shoes to give out in Everett on Thursday.
Allison Matsumoto, United Way’s director of marketing and communications, said more than 400 volunteers and 95 service providers were involved in the event. Last year, 933 people were helped at Project Homeless Connect.
Partnering with United Way were the Snohomish County Human Services Department, the Snohomish Health District, the city of Everett and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. Financial support included a $55,000 grant from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound.
In Evergreen’s cafeteria, people ate spaghetti lunches prepared by the Everett Gospel Mission’s Feed Hope Kitchen staff.
Sommer McKenzie and Davonte Peterson were among about 30 students from Everett’s Paroba College of Cosmetology &Barbering giving free haircuts.
“I like this a lot,” said Peterson, 20, as he finished cutting Matthew Clark’s hair. Clark, 50, said he lives and works at a clean-and-sober house in Marysville. “I’m nine years clean,” he said.
Rick Young, 61, saw quite a transformation in the mirror as McKenzie snipped his hair and shaved off his long gray beard. “I’m a cook and baker by trade,” said Young, who lost his job and now stays at the Everett Gospel Mission.
Along with the big social service agencies was a grassroots nonprofit, Free Letters Home. Stacey and Greg Barber, of Everett, have been helping people who are homeless send messages to loved ones since 2011.
It was just before Valentine’s Day 2011 when Greg Barber said he “saw some homeless guys under an overpass.” Since then, he and his wife have collected greeting cards, bought postage and mailed letters all over the country. They take their Free Letters Home effort to local churches that provide free meals. When he asks letter writers which state they’re sending to, “people open up and tell you their stories,” Barber said.
A septic system inspector who has no children, Barber said about half the letter writers are kids sending to their parents, the other half adults reaching out to their kids.
New this year at Project Homeless Connect was the Everett Police Department’s Community Outreach and Enforcement Team. Police Sgt. Mike Braley and Kaitlyn Dowd, one of two social workers embedded with the department’s team, were busy answering questions. “We’re seeing people we work with out on the street,” Dowd said.
The event was a place to meet service providers, and talk to people they work with while addressing addiction and mental health issues on the street, Braley said. With social workers’ help, police have gotten people into detox and treatment.
Carl Rogers, 74, and his 70-year-old wife, Jean, live with the tragedy of addiction. The Everett couple came to Project Homeless Connect — but not for themselves.
“Our son is 35. He’s a heroin addict,” Jean Rogers said. “He started in high school, but we didn’t know.” Now with chronic medical problems, he is in an inpatient treatment facility in Skagit County. They hope funding holds out so he can stay as long as possible.
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” Jean Rogers said.
Julie Muhsltein: 425-339-3450; firstname.lastname@example.org.