On Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen local social service providers will converge at the North Beach Senior Center to share their resources with people who need them.
The first monthly Ocean Shores Project Connect event, set for 12:30 to 3 p.m., will provide local folks with a plethora of information — along with a hot meal.
Ocean Shores City Council member Susan Conniry got the idea from the federally mandated “Point in Time” counts of the homeless population, which take place annually all over the country to assess local needs. Grays Harbor County’s official Jan. 24 count, for example, was held at the Aberdeen First United Methodist Church. Local homeless people were offered free haircuts, flu shots and access to resources from agencies including Social Security and Work Source.
“We reached out to the county and asked if we could do something like that in Ocean Shores,” said Conniry. “It’s difficult for us out here. When you say to somebody: ‘Well, just stop by the CCAP office and fill in an application,’ it’s just not that easy. Some people don’t have the ability to get there.”
The Coastal Community Action Program is part of a national network of agencies that work with low-income individuals and families to remove the barriers that prevent them from achieving economic stability, according to the group’s website. The office serving Grays Harbor and Pacific counties is in Aberdeen, about 22 miles from Ocean Shores.
Conniry said she pulled together a number of social service organizations, including CCAP, and staged the initial North Beach event Jan. 23 at the Ocean Shores Methodist Church.
It was a success in more ways than she expected.
“A number of people from the various providers didn’t know what the other providers did, and so they networked,” she said. “So we had more than people coming by to take advantage of the resources; there was plenty of time for people to talk about how they could work together, how they could send people from one organization to another, now that they knew what was available.”
At the end of the day, it was widely agreed that they ought to get together more often.
So Conniry joined forces with Loren Taylor, leader of an organization called 4 People, whose mission is to connect people with resources. Wednesday’s event (and those to follow) will fall under that nonprofit umbrella.
“4 People is a nonprofit that for many years has connected people with resources all over Washington. In the last two years we have decided to ‘bring things home’ and focus on more local needs,” said Taylor. “Project Connect fits our mission perfectly, and hopefully we can show that making services available before people become homeless is better than after.”
The North Beach Senior Center jumped on board right away to host, Conniry said, and even offered to provide meals at every gathering. Then she got other participating agencies to commit to returning on the last Wednesday of every month.
“This will essentially be a one-stop shop where people can come once a month, all the organizations will be there, and we can continue to grow,” she said. “Once people know we’re there, hopefully other providers will come and join us.”
She noted that the homeless population is not the only demographic who can benefit from these events.
“We want to reach out not just to people who need a sleeping bag, or need a meal. What we want to do is provide resources for people who are on the edge,” she said.
That includes seniors on Social Security taking care of their grandkids, for example, and local youth without a stable home environment.
“I don’t know where it’s going from here. This is just the beginning,” she added. “We want to be sure that all the people who need help get the help.”
The event will run from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the senior center, 885 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW in Ocean Shores.