Struggling with poverty can be a lonely experience. Health, housing, transportation, employment and other factors can be a delicate house of cards. Without resources or a support system, one card slipping out of place can bring it all crashing down.
Project Homeless Connect is a way to help shore up those cards for people in need. People attending the annual service clearinghouse Wednesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Center found all the threads of the local support net in one place at one time. And it was anything but lonely, with more than 35 organizations and services on offer and more than 50 volunteers ready to help.
Lindsey was at Project Homeless Connect with her baby, Savannah. She’s got two older kids, as well. She attended the event when she first moved to the peninsula from Anchorage about five years ago and was back this year to see about child care, women’s housing and get a haircut.
“I haven’t been here in a few years but when I did come here, my first years of living here helped me out a lot with this program, with food and clothing and the different services thy here,” she said.
Lindsey likes the community fell of Soldotna more than Anchorage but finds it tougher to make ends meet on the peninsula.
“Employment can be challenging down here compared to Anchorage but at the same time, I love living here. It’s a lot slower and I love the beaches, and the community is a lot tighter. And there’s a lot more going on down here that it’s really community-based down here, a lot more than Anchorage and I really like that,” she said.
She’s been in the same rental for the last four years but it’s been a struggle at times.
“I’ve almost lost my place a few times but praise to God I haven’t,” she said. “And, yeah, taking care of three kids, that can be really rough. So having a lot of these support places to go to, to turn to when I need help and assistance, helps a great deal, really. It’s really life-saving.”
Beth Selby is the volunteer coordinator for Project Homeless Connect. Agencies and organizations bring their own staff and volunteers for their stations, but plenty of nonaffiliated people were at the sports center bright and early Wednesday looking to be put to work.
“It’s been going great, super busy, we had people lining up out here in the lobby by 8:15 this morning, so we’ve had tremendous amounts of people come through. Lots of volunteers,” Selby said.
Among the agencies at the event, Erin Martin is a counselor with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Her agency helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment. Her goal at Project Homeless Connect is to spread the word about what services they have available.
“Letting people know that we’re here,” Martin said. “A lot of individuals just may not have access to where we’re located in Kenai. And, so, just contacting people who may not benefit from our services that may not know that they would benefit.”
One of the agencies that’s best known on the peninsula is the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, and they were out in force.
“We brought a lot of food, we’ve got hot food, cold food, snacks, we’ve also got our USDA programs. We brought examples of those over, applications, they can sign up,” said Linda Kendall, program director at the food bank.
“It’s going very well,” she said. “Quite a few people. I think there’s more coming through than I’ve seen in years past. We have come across, I just talked to a couple of them that had not been to the food bank, so I gave them the literature and such and invited them over.”
Anyone interested in helping next year’s Project Homeless Connect, or volunteering in the meantime, can contact Love, INC at 262-6341.