Polk Connect provides services

Volunteers will help serve meals during the Polk County Homeless Connect on Wednesday.

Photo by Lukas Eggen
Volunteers will help serve meals during the Polk County Homeless Connect on Wednesday.

DALLAS — The Polk County Homeless Connect began in 2012 with the idea to both get an accurate count of homeless individuals in the county and to help get them into permanent housing.

Soon the event grew to include assistance for those considered “at-risk” of becoming homeless. Organizers for the event, which is Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Valley Life Center, 1795 SE Miller Ave., are taking it back to its roots: helping the unsheltered homeless.

Wednesday’s event will offer medical screenings, information on benefits and housing program, bike repair, camping supplies, showers, pet care, dental care, clothing, haircuts, veteran services and more.

Last year, the point-in-time count that coincided with the event tallied 102 sheltered homeless, meaning they’re living in cars or camps.

That’s greatly underestimated, said Jimmy Jones, with Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Community Resource Program. Jones works with MWVCA’s Arches Project serving the homeless, and presented information about Polk County’s homeless population Thursday at an informational meeting for a proposed veterans’ shelter.

He said the number of people living in their cars or camps in Polk County is at least 300, based on the contacts he’s made and research he’s done in the last year and half.

“Essentially the size of the Polk County homeless population is much larger than people have understood in the past,” Jones said. “The nature of the homeless population is much more desperate than what people have generally realized in the past.”

That is why the Dallas Ministerial Association and its numerous partners organizing the connect event wanted to focus on unsheltered homeless people and families.

“It’s unlikely a one-day event will end someone’s homeless journey, but it is highly likely that someone takes on hope and makes a connection that will actually follow through,” said Heather Wright, a member of DMA and the pastor of Dallas’ Living Hope City Church.

Transportation is available.

Volunteers are needed: polkconnectvolunteer@gmail.com or call 971-599-3845 for more information. Donations of sleeping bags, tents, tarps, flashlights, batteries and new underwear and socks are needed. Items can be dropped off at Valley Life Center, 1795 SE Miller Ave., or Ace Hardware in West Salem, 820 Wallace Road NW, Salem.

For more information: 503-623-4116.

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