EVERETT — Jessica Riley hadn’t done laundry in a couple months. In the parking lot of the Everett High School gym Thursday, she stood waiting for a fresh load of clothes.
“I’ve stayed in a shelter before, but I’ve never been this homeless,” said Riley, 43.
The Everett-area woman said her home these days is a 1983 Volvo, a car with no license tabs. She and her 19-year-old daughter are living in the car, along with her daughter’s boyfriend.
Riley was among hundreds of people at Project Homeless Connect, an annual one-day event held at Everett High School.
Now in its eighth year, the event serving homeless and low-income people is a joint effort of Snohomish County’s Human Services Department, United Way of Snohomish County, the Snohomish Health District, the city of Everett, the Homeless Policy Task Force and many nonprofits. About 900 people were helped Thursday, said Jacqui Campbell, director of marketing and communications for the local United Way.
The Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound gave $40,000 to sponsor Project Homeless Connect 2016, and provided hundreds of backpacks.
For Riley and others, a new mobile laundry service at the event was a bonus. “We’ve been throwing clothes away,” said Riley, who has been staying in the car about three months. She said she lost a temporary job, and because of an eviction has had trouble renting another place.
The laundry service was started recently by The House, a Snohomish church, in partnership with Mukilteo’s Eric Hogan. Called Washed, it’s an outreach mission, said Pastor D.J. Rabe of The House. Also new this year was a mobile shower unit from OK’s Cascade Company.
Hogan and Rabe said their Ford box truck is outfitted with washers, dryers, a heater, generators and water tanks. Tiny tents called changing pods were available, and people using the laundry were temporarily given spare clothes.
Free dental and eye exams, haircuts, shoes and a hot lunch prepared by the Everett Gospel Mission’s Feed Hope Kitchen culinary training program were among Thursday’s offerings. Volunteers also helped people sign up for health insurance, find chemical-dependency treatment and explore housing options.
Yvonne “Angel” Wayson, 56, was trying on shoes provided by Redeeming Soles. The Seattle-based nonprofit gets athletic shoes from the Nike, Brooks and Solomon companies to donate to people in need. “People are one paycheck away from homelessness,” said Wayson, who rents a place in central Everett. “I’m overwhelmed to get something free — the shoes, all the medical help and the food,” she said.
Among those getting free backpacks and shoes was a young mother and her two children, ages 8 and 11. She asked that her identity not be published. She said she had to flee a former home because of domestic violence. “We left with just the clothes we had on,” she said.
More than 250 volunteers participated Thursday, and some 90 providers offered more than 100 services, said Dennis Smith, United Way of Snohomish County’s president and CEO.
Outside the school, Everett’s Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop provided secure bike parking and minor repairs. Among the Sharing Wheels volunteers was 57-year-old Sally Moen, who was once homeless in Monroe. She now lives in supported housing provided by Bridgeways, an Everett agency that helps people who live with mental illness.
Volunteers included 26 barber and cosmetology students from Everett’s Paroba College of Cosmetology, Esthetics &Barbering. “We did 212 haircuts last year,” said Patience Hoffman, an instructor at the school.
David Hutton came from Monroe for a haircut at the event. He also wanted to get an eye exam, offered by the Lions Club at Project Homeless Connect. Without the help, he said, new glasses would cost him $400. “I’m about to be homeless for the second time,” said Hutton, 57, who has worked in construction.
Jeremy Bissell, a Paroba barbering student, was finishing a trim on Chantal Vivier’s long, dark hair. Vivier, 44, came to Everett Thursday from the Swinomish reservation in Skagit County. “I was homeless in Everett two years ago. It was a really bad experience,” said Vivier, a member of the Santee Sioux Tribe.
She now rents a room up north and has been involved in a job training program. “I continually pray for the homeless, and for people who work with the homeless,” she said.
In Everett High’s cafeteria, 32-year-old Zachary Standley sat down for a hot lunch of spaghetti, chicken, mixed vegetables and garlic bread. He said he lives outside in Marysville, “by the railroad tracks.” The man with the black eye and wearing a cowboy hat hopes that his next stop will be a clean-and-sober house.
Standley said he’s been homeless for years. His situation has become more harrowing, he said, because of the “influx of people on heroin.”
“They steal from the homeless. It’s traumatic,” he said. “Thank God there’s still altruism, and good-hearted people out there.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.