WENATCHEE — “Has everyone filled out a form?”
Manager Roy Flores made one last call as the lunch crowd at the Lighthouse Ministries soup kitchen filtered out onto Wenatchee Avenue on Thursday.
The soup kitchen was an important stop in the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count. Volunteers waited at a table in the back with stacks of surveys. The forms asked where people stayed last night, the cause of their homelessness, their sources of income and if they have a family.
Kirk Dove Sr. never thought he’d have to fill one out. He ran a successful contracting business for 10 years. When the construction industry crashed with the economy, he had to make a choice: his home or his business.
Since October, he has spent nights in his truck and days at the Lighthouse Ministries, “waiting for the phone to ring,” he said.
Contractors are part of a new crowd that Shawn Arington is seeing on the streets this year. He volunteers at the soup kitchen and has spent most of his 31 years homeless.
“Before this year, a lot of people were homeless due to their own actions, whether it was drugs or drinking,” Arington said. “But half the people I see on the street now are homeless because of situations that are out of their control.”
He’s met business owners who lost their savings and families who lost public assistance. His eyes scanned the last of the lunch crowd, about 40 people talking at the tables or filling out surveys.
“I know at least 10 people here who used to be successful and then lost everything,” he said. “These are people who don’t drink or drug or steal.”
After Lighthouse Ministries, teams of volunteers fanned out across Chelan and Douglas counties, searching in parks and cars for homeless people. For the last week, local shelters have been tallying up their residents. Local organizations need the count in order to qualify for funding.
Meantime, an estimated 500 poor and homeless gathered at the Wenatchee Community Center for a social services fair.
At 3 p.m., Martin Velasco stood outside in a 50-person line, quietly waiting for a chance to pick up a new coat for his son. Work is slow in the restaurant business, he said. His hours have been cut, but his family still has a roof over their head. Not everyone could say that as they reached front doors of the big, noisy hall. Surveys at the ready, a greeter at the entrance asked if they were homeless or staying with friends.
Inside, a dozen community organizations handed out information on affordable housing and other social services while droves of people lined up for free food, blankets and clothing.
“The needs are up, which we expected,” event organizer Tanya Bradford said as she unloaded bags of Wheat Thins on a central table. Children and people walking by scooped them up as quick as she laid them down. “Everybody needs everything. They’re younger this year, we don’t know if it’s weather or what. We’re not sure why.”
Rachel Schleif: 664-7139