A local group that hosts events to bring services to the homeless is moving its third such event, on Thursday, Jan. 30, to the Civic Auditorium, providing much more room and more privacy for medical services.
The Community Connect event is put on by The Dalles Housing Solutions Coalition, and will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The past two such events were held in the basement of the Mid-Columbia Senior Center, but the move to the Civic, at 323 E. 4th St., will allow medical practitioners to set up their services in greater privacy in the Fireside Room at the Civic.
The coalition is a collaboration of over 30 public and private non-profit partners across the region.
The event provides health services, support, warm clothing, and food is served the entire time.
Services include flu shots, rapid HIV testing, hepatitis screening, signing people up for the Oregon Health Plan, arranging for them to get replacement IDs, and getting them signed up for Medicare.
Also offered will be information on services available to veterans, as well as outreach materials from mental health providers. People can also receive food stamp assistance and would have a safe place to talk to someone if they are in a domestic violence situation.
“This event is a great networking event for anyone, young and old, experiencing unstable housing challenges,” said Nadja McConville, community partnership coordinator for the state Department of Human Services Self Sufficiency program.
The main event will be held in the large room adjacent to the Fireside Room. Food will be provided, as well as to-go meals. Items like clothing, toiletries, blankets and sleeping bags will be available, and various service providers will be on hand to connect people to available services.
Another important element of the event is it will also be the annual “point in time” count of how many homeless people are living in the area, said Sharon Thornberry, who is manager of the Columbia Gorge Food Bank and also sits on the housing solutions coalition board.
In the week prior to the event, “we try to do a lot of on-the-street outreach so we can get the information” about the event to people who need it, Thornberry said.
She said more women “than you would think” come to the events.
The goal of the event is to get services directed to the homeless and near-homeless, Thornberry said.
The first two events, held a year ago and then last fall, each drew about 100 people, and a similar number is expected this time as well.
Hopes are to have someone to offer haircuts and foot care. Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help in those areas, or who wishes to donate items or cash, can call Thornberry at 541-370-2333.
The coalition, which hopes to eventually find solutions to housing in the community, is housed under the non-profit status of the food bank.
“Right now we don’t have big picture solutions for people. Those are in the future. This is something we can do now to support people,” Thornberry said of the event. “To see so many partners in this community come together to do this is absolutely amazing. I feel very blessed when I see the response here and the people we’re able to help.
“It’s also the transition. Someone gets a haircut, you can tell that they don‘t just look different, they feel different. It makes a huge difference for them. So just those minor things are really important in these events.”
“Our point is to set up a friendly, relaxed environment where people can visit, they can get their resources that they need. They can talk to any one of the providers that’s there and find out what’s available to them,” Thornberry said.
Some people help at the event simply by hanging out to visit with people. “So it’s a place to make contact, have a chat with somebody, have a chat with your friends,” she said.
The event includes transportation to the Civic from the Warming Place shelter and probably several other places. “We tailor that to what the police are telling us are the most likely spots for people to congregate,” Thornberry said.
The bus schedule will be posted at the Warming Place, at St. Vincent de Paul offices at Third and Pentland.
Thornberry said because of the high cost of housing locally, there are a lot of people who don’t have housing but do have jobs.
“And there are also people that have pretty decent disability checks, but it’s not enough to get them houses here so they’re living in tents and shuffling from place to place,” Thornberry added.
When Columbia Gorge Food Bank opened a food bank in Rufus, they learned that at any given time 10-20 people are living there homeless.
“Sadly it’s becoming a way of life for people because they can’t afford housing,” she said.