LONG BEACH — Of the 196 individuals and families served during the seventh annual Project Community Connect, about 47 qualified as homeless.
The event was held on Thursday Jan. 23 at the Elks Lodge in Long Beach. Service providers from Pacific County gathered to help people who needed everything from healthcare to haircuts. Volunteers guided participants around the various tables offering information and helping to fill out forms to get a replacement I.D.
Counting the homeless
The gathering also served a dual purpose, helping Pacific County Health and Human Services Director Katie Lindstrom to count how many people in Pacific County qualify as homeless. Lindstrom was conducting the annual point-in-time count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons, a count mandated by state law and required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In addition to her work at the event, health department employees searched all around the county for people living without shelter.
Lindstrom wished local legislators had made an effort to come to the event. She wanted them to see that people in Pacific County need more help than what the state is doing for them. What is being provided in terms of housing is not adequate, Lindstrom said.
“I want them to be here and look in the eyes of someone who was sleeping outside today,” Lindstrom said.
Pacific County’s median income is about $37,000, according to the Pacific County Economic Development Council.
On the peninsula the median income is about $26,800. For a family of three, the federal poverty level in 2019 was $21,330.
Over the period 2013 to 2017, about one of every six people in the county was living below the poverty level, according to the Washington State Employment Stability Department.
Vital services provided
Throughout the event there was a constant line for eye exams and a free pair of glasses. Optometrist Jeffery Nevitt with Pacific Eye Clinic conducted about 70 eye exams throughout the five-hour-long event.
Rudy Pogdill, 57, was one of those waiting to see Nevitt. He didn’t want to have to come, Pogdill said. It is hard to ask for help, he said.
“Had to kick my own butt to get here,” Pogdill said.
But he said he was glad he came.
“It makes me better when I come down here.”
Pogdill has lived his whole life in either Pacific County or Astoria.
An area was set aside where people could pick up personal-care items. It was set up like a small store, where people could browse clothing and shoes. A free warm meal was provided by His Supper Table.
Peninsula Poverty Response Executive Director and event coordinator Bill Buck said he was excited so many people came out, despite it being rainy outside.
The goal of the event is simple in Buck’s mind.
“To help our neighbors that are in need,” he said.