NEWPORT — The purpose of Newport Project Homeless Connect 2020 was two-fold, said Rich Waller, who coordinated the event held at the Newport Church of the Nazarene on Friday, Jan. 31, as community health improvement coordinator with Samaritan Health Services (SHS).
First, said Waller, was to provide services to those attending, but there was also a goal of assisting in gathering information for the Point-in-Time and Housing Inventory Count (hudexchange.info/programs/hdx/pit-hic/).
“It is the prescribed method for counting individuals who are dealing with homelessness,” Waller explained, saying the data gathered is connected to some of the resources available in the community.
“This year about 95 people were served,” Waller said of the event that had a variety of health care providers and service agencies represented.
Dwight Masterson got a fresh cut and style on Friday afternoon from Nicole Phillips of Waves and More Salon in Newport. Phillips was there as a volunteer, along with other local stylists, “Just to give back to the community,” she said.
There were donated shoes, blankets and sleeping bags available, warm coats, hats and scarves at a “free store,” presented by Grace Wins Haven.
Vaccines were available, and mental health providers were on hand. Dental appointments were also available. Representatives from the Oregon Health Plan offered enrollment assistance. There were recovery services providers, as well as reproductive health care and contraception. SHS offered services including wound and foot care and diabetes testing.
“Anyone can show up, just walk on in,” said Susan Trachsel, public information officer for Lincoln County Health and Human Services.
Lunch was served and accompanied by a singer on acoustic guitar. Showers were available in the Grace Wins shower van, and there were on-site pet-sitting services, so even those with a companion animal could take advantage of the services offered.
Information regarding Lincoln County’s Harm Reduction Program was also offered.
“A needle exchange and naloxone distribution program was started in 2018 to prevent overdoses and reduce the spread of disease,” explained Trachsel.
Nancy Hale, with Lincoln County Health and Human Services, assisted those needing a copy of their birth certificate, while the Salvation Army worked with those seeking state identification. Hale noted that requirements vary from state to state, and she helps people gather the documents they need.
Shelly Kingston, north area advocate for Lincoln County School District’s HELP (Homeless Education Literacy Project) was in attendance, inviting families to the Compass Center for Youth and Families later Friday afternoon, where they were distributing school supplies, as well as information about the services offered there.
Kingston shared that she’s seen 230 students who have “either couch surfed, lived in tents, lived in their vehicles or motels” since the start of the school year in just her area from Otis to Depoe Bay. She indicated that the Newport homeless coordinator saw even higher numbers of homeless students.
Kyle Gustafson served as an escort and guide, one of a many volunteers who were on hand to help.
Taylor Thorn, the volunteer coordinator for this year’s Project Homeless Connect, reported that there were a total of 66 volunteers who gave of their time to help out with this effort.