Project Homeless Connect coming to Seaside in late January

Kallie Linder, from Salon Boheme, cuts Mark Jenkin's hair during the Project Homeless Connect event at the Seaside Convention Center last year.

SEASIDE — How does a homeless person cash a check, get immunizations or stay fed?

Clatsop Community Action is hosting the seventh annual Project Homeless Connect Jessica Maclay Memorial from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 28 to help those in need get connected to information, resources and services. Assistance will be available to connect participants to housing, mail service, food stamps, identification, Social Security, mental health services, employment, education and legal aid.

More than 40 nonprofit, governmental and faith-based agencies will attend the event at the Seaside Convention Center and provide services including medical screenings, hearing tests, eye exams, immunizations, haircuts, personal care items, clothing vouchers and a hot meal.

“It’s a venue to make it easy for people who are looking for services to get them,” Clatsop Community Action Director Elaine Bruce said.

The Sunset Empire Transportation District designated Jan. 28 as a Ridership Appreciation Day. All bus services in Clatsop County will be at no cost to riders for the entire day, making it easier for people to access the event even if they are not from Seaside.

“Homeless and especially near-homeless people — those at imminent risk of becoming homeless — are encouraged to attend this free event,” according to a news release from Clatsop Community Action.

There are many ways to define homelessness, Bruce said, and it includes people living with others or at motels or hotels because they lost their own housing or those who are doubled up, which is becoming more common among youth in the county. In 2015, Clatsop County recorded 517 homeless families and 1,005 individuals. Of those, 278 people were younger than 18.

Project Homeless Connect, founded in San Francisco in 2004, is now a nationwide initiative that takes place in a numerous cities. The individual events vary in size, content and frequency, but have the same goals.

In February 2011, 30-year-old Jessica Maclay, the originator and organizer of Clatsop County’s first two Project Homeless Connect events, died from injuries sustained in a car accident near Seaside. The local event was renamed in her memory and to recognize her dedication and compassionate service to others.

For Clatsop Community Action, winter is the best time to host the event because the organization gets the most participation from those needing and seeking services, Bruce said. In fact, she added, “it seems like the worse the weather, the better the participation.” People have more urgency to seek resources during the winter, when the weather is rainy and cold.

About 200 people attend the event seeking at least one service.

Participants first check in and have a preliminary discussion with Clatsop Community Action staff about what they’re looking for. Volunteers then lead the participants to different stations where they can talk to staff members from the various agencies and organizations or receive the services they need,

“It’s a real fun event,” Bruce said, adding it also provides a chance for the different community partners to network. “Not one single entity can do everything.”

Clatsop Community Action is in need of 100 volunteers to help with the program. To sign up, contact Viviana Matthews at 503-325-1400, ext. 1031.

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