By Jenny Neyman
It’s a little hard to say what the best-case scenario for Project Homeless Connect would be.
One of the organizers, Lisa Roberts, said they had more people than ever come to the fourth annual event, held at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Thursday.
“I think we’re busier this year than we were last year. A lot more people coming through,” she said. “We have served so many people we have run out of sandwiches, so we have had to go to store and buy bread and meat and cheese so that we can get everybody fed because that’s the one thing, I don’t want anybody going away from here hungry today.”
But, ultimately, Roberts would rather have no one show up because no one in the community was homeless. That’s unfortunately not the case.
“We do know that there is a lot of things going on around us, that we’ve had a lot of words of layoffs and that sort of thing from different big corporations, so I think that could be a part of it,” Roberts said.
As the name implies, Project Homeless Connect links people lacking adequate housing with a variety of services. Those in need can come speak to representatives of various agencies and nonprofit organizations that help with housing, food, mental and physical health, disabilities, transportation, employment, child care and much more. This year they added a veterinarian to give vaccines to service animals, as well as a musician proving some background ambiance.
The clothing donations were a hit.
“I’ve seen a lot of wonderful people here today. It’s been really good,” said Janet Anderson, who was volunteering to help match the donated items with attendees. “Lot of coats today, people have really went through a lot of coats and I’m just amazed at community help that we’ve had.”
The booths offering haircuts and massages were occupied nonstop.
“Constant. I had to tell somebody, ‘I’ll be right back, I have to go to the bathroom,’” said Trista Cavallo, one of the volunteer hair cutters.
Cavallo lives in Idaho now, but was back on the central Kenai Peninsula for a visit when her friends asked her to come along and help out.
“It doesn’t cost me anything to cut hair so why not do it for free for people who need it?” she said.
She knew one of her customers, John, from Ministry of the Living Stones Church in Sterling. She gave him a bit of grief as well as a trim.
“I thought about shaving it all and then just giving him a comb-over,” she said.
“A Donald Trump look?” said John’s wife, Dre.
“Yeah,” Cavallo said, while John good-naturedly sat through their teasing.