‘We’re offering services to folks instead of just a dollar on the street corner’: Annual event puts homeless resources under one roof

SPOKANE, Wash. — A five-hour stretch at the Spokane Convention Center Thursday may have helped hundreds of people take the first step to getting or staying off of the street.

For the last nine years, the Homeless Connect event has brought the city’s homeless resources under one roof, so those in need can easily access the help they need. Event chair Kari Chapman told 4 News Now having over 100 groups, agencies, non-profits and vendors in one spot is a game-changer, even if it is just for one day.

“We have over 107 vendors in this building right now providing every service you can possibly imagine from haircuts to veterinary services to Hep C testing, screening and treatment, medical, clothing, food bank, and a hot meal,” said Chapman. “They can access as much as possible at one time and get farther ahead and try to get off the streets.”

Chapman said The Salvation Army has typically hosted the event, but had been getting such a big response, it was time to move to the convention center.

Michelle Schlienger said she knew how much a day like Thursday meant to the men and women at the convention center, because she’s been homeless before.

“I’ve been disabled for about 42 years. I have paranoid schizophrenia,” Schlienger said as she got her hair cut. “It really would’ve helped me, because I roamed around Spokane, almost all of Spokane, and we didn’t have things like this.”

Schlienger said once she got enrolled in a supported living program, she got back on her feet, taking medication and finding an apartment in downtown Spokane.

“I’m just very grateful for all of the people that are here who donate their time as volunteers and I’m just very thankful. It makes me very happy,” said Schlienger. “It has made me believe that there is kindness in the human soul and that you can succeed if you want to.”

She said she hopes the Homeless Connect event instills that hope in others who are struggling the same way she did years ago.

“I’m really just thankful for that — for today and tomorrow,” she said. “It makes you wish and hope that you have a tomorrow for yourself.”

Just because Homeless Connect is a one-day event, it doesn’t mean its resources aren’t available year-round.

Chapman recommended reaching out to the EnVision Center on Arthur, SNAP homeless services, Catholic Charities Eastern Washington, Volunteers of America in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, and CHAS clinics across the city. Other resources include the Union Gospel Mission and Transitions and St. Vincent de Paul, Family Promise of North Idaho and Maggie’s Place in North Idaho.