PACIFIC COUNTY — Project Homeless Connect is an event that has the potential to not only change people’s, lives but to change the lives of the people involved in making the event possible by bringing awareness, connections with compassionate people in the community, and services to those in need. It is a one day, one place event for people in need to get access to services under one roof.

Project Homeless Connect in South Pacific County is taking place on Thursday, January 25 at the Elks Lodge located at 110 Pacific Avenue in Long Beach. The event will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. If you would like to volunteer please get in contact with Mitzi Potheir at gregnmitzipoth50@gmail.com, or by phone at 360-574-3769, or for providers Sheena Humphreys at sehumphreys@co.pacific.wa.us by Jan. 10.

The last five years, Peninsula Poverty Response (PPR) has been the coordinating force behind the Project Homeless Connect event in South Pacific County. PPR takes compassion to a heartwarming level. Their hands on approach to helping the community and those in need or homeless is admirable.

The definition of homelessness is characterized by these criteria: where a person slept last night, such as an RV or camper, with family or friends, in a tent, car, or shelter, motel, or out in the open. Other qualifiers would be lack of running water or drinking water, if the building has a restroom, shower facilities, utilities, heating, or a place to prepare meals.

When people come through the door, they register for the services with a volunteer at the front table and then are paired with their navigator — they pair each person seeking help with a navigator who stays with them through the entire event. From there, guests are taken through the event to attain these services, including but not limited to, educational, employment, and family services, housing resources, medical, dental, and eye exams and even a haircut. There is also a hot meal provided during the event; this year the meal is graciously being catered by His Supper Table.

The next day is the point in time or PIT count, which counts the number of people who are homeless in Pacific County. Project Homeless Connect is scheduled in January to coordinate with the PIT count. The PIT count and Project Homeless Connect are projects that support the Pacific County 10 Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness.

For many, this day is life changing. Every person who attends does not leave without a new, fresher, more positive perspective on what it means to be part of a community. For those in need, it provides a chance for them to obtain the services they need while maintaining their dignity and making connections in the community. For providers, it offers a chance to give back to the communities in which they serve. For volunteers it is a chance to get involved in their communities and make lasting memories with those they help and other volunteers. For those involved with PPR who put together PHC, it means their heart for the community and their passion for helping others is coming to fruition for another year.

During the 2017 event, Project Homeless Connect provided 147 people with services provided by 70 volunteers and 26 providers.

Amanda King is South Pacific County Resource Navigator for the Coastal Community Action Program and an AmeriCorps Member.

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