With I-5 traffic overhead making it difficult to hear, Sarah Alvarez cups her ear to listen to a man talk as volunteers with Angel Resource Connection help homeless people sign up for stimulus checks in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

With I-5 traffic overhead making it difficult to hear, Sarah Alvarez cups her ear to listen to a man talk as volunteers with Angel Resource Connection help homeless people sign up for stimulus checks in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Homeless get nonprofit help applying for stimulus checks

Navigating the registration process is tricky — especially without an e-mail or internet connection.

EVERETT — Penelope Protheroe posed the question over the steady, dull roar of traffic coming from I-5 overhead.

“Did you get your stimulus check?” she asked a homeless man who wandered over to the table that her nonprofit, Angel Resource Connection, erected beneath the overpass near the Everett Gospel Mission’s men’s shelter on Smith Avenue Monday evening.

Yes, he told her. The money will be deposited into his account because he receives Social Security benefits.

For other people who are homeless, though, the answer is less simple. Some don’t have email addresses or mailing addresses, both of which are key to getting the $1,200 checks that the federal government is distributing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many also haven’t recently filed tax returns, which complicates the registration process.

Protheroe and three other volunteers — each with laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots — were there to help. As papers on their clipboards flapped in the wind, they assisted a cluster of people in signing up for the checks, setting up email accounts when needed, and using the addresses of local homeless shelters for those without mailboxes.

The process, outlined by a seven-page guide that the volunteers have compiled, gets especially messy for anyone who doesn’t have an internet connection.

But for people who are homeless, the extra cash can be a lifeline.

“I have nothing right now,” said 39-year-old Christopher Gliege. “It’s a blessing that they came out here to help us.”

Gliege told a volunteer that he’ll likely use his check to pay the roughly $150 reissue fee to get his driver’s license back. He’ll probably save the rest, he said.

Another woman who visited the table said she’ll give the money to her kids, the youngest of whom is 10.

Nichole McGraw, who’s been living on the streets for several years since her divorce, said she wants to use the check to buy new work clothes to try and get a job.

“It’s huge for me,” she said of the $1,200.

McGraw, 38, had heard about the checks. But she likely wouldn’t have been able to sign up without the help of Protheroe’s team.

“I don’t have a phone, and the libraries are closed,” she said. “They did it all for me. It was awesome.”

People line up as volunteers with Angel Resource Connection help homeless people sign up for stimulus checks. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

People line up as volunteers with Angel Resource Connection help homeless people sign up for stimulus checks. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Protheroe estimates that volunteers with Angel Resource Connection have helped some 60 people sign up for the checks. They’re also offering to help people find deals when they’re spending the money, she said. One man wants to buy lawn equipment to start a landscaping business, so she’s looking for used tools he can buy at a lower price.

Other homeless people who’ve registered for the checks have said they plan to fix up old cars or buy transit tickets to go live with family elsewhere, she said.

“That $1,200 — when you have nothing, it feels like winning the lottery,” said Protheroe.

A homeless camp once stretched beneath the overpass on the other side of a chain link fence behind her. But authorities had cleared the camp that morning, leaving many people wondering where they were going to sleep, Protheroe said as she handed out takeout containers of chicken and rice with homemade cookies wrapped in tinfoil.

Angel Resource Connection president Penelope Protheroe (right) helps Heather Manley navigate a website. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Angel Resource Connection president Penelope Protheroe (right) helps Heather Manley navigate a website. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The three other volunteers are a part of the SnoCo Defender Collective, a group of employees from the Snohomish County Public Defender Association who are organizing to meet people’s needs in response to the pandemic.

“There’s all these barriers in place for these individuals — barriers that we don’t have to even think about,” said public defender Ana Faoro.

Faoro was helping one man to register when he abruptly turned and walked away from the table, throwing his mask on the ground in apparent frustration.

“For some people,” Protheroe said as she watched him go, “it’s very hard to imagine that something good is going to happen to them.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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