Some people got their feet washed. Some had blood tests, or applied for classes, or sought help for legal issues. Some just enjoyed a hot meal.
“This is the first real meal I’ve eaten eaten in over a month. I don’t get hot food unless I go to the warming shelter,” Cary Shilts said.
The Juneau Coalition of Housing and Homelessness hosted more than 200 Juneau residents experiencing homelessness at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Wednesday.
“It’s important for the community to know what’s happening to its residents,” said Scott Ciambor, chief housing officer for the City and Borough of Juneau, who helped out at the event, called Homeless Connect. “This is my ninth one. I’ve been involved every year.”
People experiencing homelessness entered the JACC and registered via the point-in-time count, an annual national count to assess the current state of homelessness in the United States. Ciambor estimated between 220 and 250 people experiencing homelessness participated, roughly the same number as years past.
“It’s an important event. People get helped immediately; decision-makers at the local, state and federal levels get to look at the point-in-time data,” Ciambor said. “It’s a little more complicated than just counting the people that show up today.”
Various groups set up inside the JACC provided specific assistance to those who asked for it, and everyone received food. Groups provided assistance in a variety of forms, including legal and medical and benefits assistance, including specifics like HIV/AIDS testing, haircuts and dealing with foot problems such as infections or toenail issues.
Shilts, who was participating in the event with his dog, was concerned about a host of health issues, and generally worried about the future.
“I don’t know how all this is going to work,” Shilts said of how to receive medical care. He added that he relies on his dog for support and that his dog has saved his life.
“This dog has been with me for 14 years, and I’m not giving him up,” he said.
Special emphasis was spent on bringing in the under-25 population of people experiencing homelessness. The JCHH offered coupons for free pizza to unaccompanied people under 25.
Genevieve Schmidt, an AmeriCorps servicemember working with the Learning Connection, said that they’d had a pretty busy morning, with a lot of interest in signing up for the classes offered for adults.
“We’ve had a lot of folks signing up for classes,” Schmidt said. “We’ve filled up the entire sheet.”
Jamiann Hasselquist, who cut hair at the event, said that this is her fourth year volunteering, and that the same could be said for most of the other volunteer hair dressers.
“It’s been good listening to people’s stories and helping them on their healing journeys,” Hasselquist said.
Steve Lythgoe, who received a trim from Hasselquist, said that he had gotten a lot done at the JACC that morning.
“I want people to know that this really helps,” Lythgoe said. “It’s good that they get this going, especially this time of winter.”