Project Homeless Connect brings joy

02/11/2019

By Susan Cody

Red curls drop to the floor as Sai Rajsavong clips away at Debbie Ott’s frizzy hair. The free haircut enticed her to Clatsop County’s Project Homeless Connect event Jan. 29.

When she can’t afford the hair care, Debbie says “I go from normal to looking like Medusa stuck her finger in a light socket.”

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Project Homeless Connect puts homeless and near-homeless people in touch with services and agencies that can help them. Rajsavong’s Sea Sai Salon, which offered free haircuts since the event began nine years ago, was one of more than 40 agencies at the Seaside Convention Center.

 “It’s a beautiful thing,” says Kevin Meyer, who found a home at Helping Hands in Astoria. “I have never seen a community that helps like this – not in Texas, not in Utah.”

 

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Dozens of people patiently wait for their turn to register with intake volunteers. Some seek housing and health care, while others might need food, shelter, substance use treatment, warm clothing, blankets or hygiene products.

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Organizer Viviana Matthews, deputy director, Clatsop Community Action says she trains the volunteers to ask questions and assess the needs of participants to get them the help that’s available.

In addition to social agencies, some organizations provide specialty service.

  • Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation, along with the Astoria Lions Club and Clatsop Community College (CCC) Nursing Program, offer vision and health screening.
  • Laundry Love in Seaside offers people funds to wash their clothes once a month.
  • Cannon Beach Community Church gives out warm clothing.
  • A free hot lunch is provided by Lighthouse Christian Church.

Students from the Tongue Point Job Corps Center, Astoria High School and CCC volunteer to lead people to their service destinations.

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Jeremiah George, a medical administrative assistant student at Tongue Point, says he felt like he woke up with a purpose, knowing he could help someone. He is excited to participate in events like PHC, where he is given responsibility and can use his skills. He is the volunteer guide for Kevin Meyer at PHC.

 

Kevin’s story

Meyer says he left Utah to get away from a life of drug and alcohol abuse and woke up in Pendleton, dazed and confused. He hitched a ride to Warrenton and walked into Seaside Temps. There he met Alan Evans, CEO of Helping Hands.

“I was on my last lap before I walked in there. Without this program I would be in a bad spot – whole-heartedly,” Meyer says.

“This program takes you from being down and out to a productive and functioning person in society,” Meyer says. “I became a better person because of this program.”

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Residents of Helping Hands are required to participate in chores, such as cooking and cleaning and attend classes. One class teaches you how to observe behavior and how to respond better to negative situations, Meyer says. “It teaches you humility.”

George says, “Kevin was the first person I met, and he is a joy to be around. Project Homeless Connect is fantastic.”

In case you missed it: Connection to services is available year-round at Clatsop Community Action, 364 Ninth St., Astoria, 503-325-1400 or ccaservices.org. Its mission is to help people meet housing, food, and other basic living needs.

The CCA Regional Food Bank is located at 2010 S.E. Chokeberry Ave., Warrenton, 503-861-8663. The CCA website lists food banks in local communities.