Gold Bar’s Cindy Lien, 62, was getting her only haircut of the year. Christian Massey, a 22-year-old dad, talked about his future while eating spaghetti. Dei Alinder, 48, found new shoes.
They came to Evergreen Middle School on Thursday for help with life’s basics: shelter and food, work and health care. The Everett school hosted Project Homeless Connect, an annual one-day event providing direct services and resources to homeless and very low-income people.
“I’m very grateful,” Alinder said. Her friends, she said, have let her “couch hop” since she lost her home. She has struggled to find a job. “It’s been rough,” she said.
A $40,000 donation from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound largely paid for this year’s Project Homeless Connect, according to Sara Haner, communications and events manager for United Way of Snohomish County. Along with United Way, event partners included the Snohomish County Human Services Department, the county’s Homeless Policy Task Force, the Snohomish Health District, the city of Everett and many nonprofits.
“We hosted just over 1,000 people today,” Haner said late Thursday.
In line outside a classroom turned hair salon, grizzled men from the street waited alongside moms with young children. Volunteers from Paroba College, an Everett beauty school, snipped away neglected locks.
Cutting Lien’s hair was Paroba student Brandy Kole. Her wife, Kristina Kole, a licensed barber, helped with finishing touches on Lien’s hairstyle. The Gold Bar woman, who said she and her husband live on $733 per month from Social Security disability, hadn’t had a haircut since Project Homeless Connect last year.
Brandy Kole said it’s a pleasure to help. “I don’t have a lot myself, but I like to do what I can,” she said.
David Norman and his 8-year-old son, Jerry, posed for a family portrait offered by a volunteer at the event. The photos, made on a color printer, were laminated so families wouldn’t need frames or places to hang them.
Norman said he and his son are helped by a YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish supportive housing program. “I had stable work, but I got addicted to drugs,” said the Everett man, adding that he has now been through recovery and parenting programs. “I had to step up to the plate. It’s been a long road, but I got my son back,” he said.
There were 82 service providers and 150 volunteers at Thursday’s event. Of the approximately 1,000 people served, 260 were children and 186 were age 55 or older, according to Haner.
Participants were asked during registration about food needs. Thirty-three percent of those who answered said they always felt stressed about getting their next meal.
In the cafeteria, guests were seated restaurant-style by Joan Daves, a case manager at the Everett Gospel Mission. “How many in your party?” she asked as diners entered for a lunch prepared by cooks in the mission’s Feed Hope Kitchen culinary training program.
Eating by himself, Massey said he was once homeless but now sees a brighter future. The young father of two is staying in a transitional living facility in Everett operated by Friends of Youth. His girlfriend and children are in Seattle. He said he now has a good job doing machine work for a fireplace manufacturer. “I’m working to get my family back together,” he said.
Anna McCauley was with her granddaughters, Anika, 10, Ashanti, 11, and Ashura, 13. The girls will start school with new backpacks, thanks to the Boeing employee fund’s donation of 1,300 packs.
A “Stand Down” resource event for veterans was part of Project Homeless Connect. Coordinator John Gross said most were requesting help with housing or “access to services they don’t even know about.” Counselors from Community Health Center of Snohomish County were available to meet in private with veterans wanting to talk about their issues, Gross said.
Outside, volunteers from the Everett Animal Shelter cared for pets while owners were getting services. When Tracy Zielasko came to fetch her two dogs, she received anti-inflammatory medicine for her 10-year-old basset hound, “Stilly.”
Project Homeless Connect isn’t all haircuts and free shoes. Some help is harder to see.
Faith Simonelli is housing program manager with Volunteers of America Western Washington’s Dispute Resolution Center. She helped a man who had gotten a three-day pay or vacate notice from his landlord. “In Washington, an eviction stays on your record forever,” she said.
The man had another place to stay, but feared an eviction notice if he wasn’t out in three days. Simonelli called the landlord to cut through red tape. “The landlord agreed to give him 10 days to move out,” she said. If he complies, he won’t be burdened with an eviction on his record, Simonelli said.
Terry Nichols, a 57-year-old who said he lives in his car in Lynnwood, looked ready for a fresh start after his haircut Thursday.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said of all the help available. “I wish I had a million dollars. I would help all these people.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.