Denise Darneal said the longer she is living on the streets of Corvallis, the more her self-esteem suffers.
That’s why she was thankful Tuesday when dozens of “friendly and loving” people donated their time to help homeless and low-income members of the community connect to needed resources.
The Corvallis Police Department’s community livability unit organized the gathering, coined the Corvallis Area Resource Event or CARE.
“This event has been very helpful to the homeless people in providing them with blankets and the help they need,” said Darneal, who was taking home a new coat, hand sanitizer and hygiene products. “Homeless people are very thankful.”
The event took place in the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library parking garage. Booths were set up with representatives from dozens of service providers in the areas of housing, job training, education and more.
In front of the garage was a large red van in which volunteer dentists were providing emergency dental care. Inside the library, providers from Benton County Health and Samaritan Health Services did medical screenings and blood tests.
“It’s not necessarily just one resource that people need sometimes to get themselves back on track,” said Sgt. Joel Goodwin. “They may need help with mental health and substance abuse and housing, so it’s difficult sometimes to be able to track all those resources down. So we wanted to have someplace where it was sort of a one-stop shop for the day.”
Some organizations handed out tangible goods. The Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence gave away soap, lotions and toothbrushes. Community Outreach INC offered tampons and nonperishable foods, such as applesauce and raisins. Heartland Humane Society gave attendees free dog and cat food, as well as toys and bandannas.
Other groups helped participants connect with needed services. Samaritan Health services helped visitors sign up for the Oregon Health Plan. Blue Sun, a nonprofit that provides employment services, invited participants to fill out employment applications.
The Department of Motor Vehicles provided information to people who have lost their identification cards on how to replace them. Benton County Mental Health employees set up appointments for those in need. The Department of Human Services provided applications for food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
“Rather than just explaining this is what we can do, actually getting folks engaged in it so it’s easier to follow up because the ball’s already rolling,” Goodwin said.
The sergeant said the resource fair was one outcome of complaints received last summer regarding Central Park, a key gathering area for homeless people in Corvallis. The police department decided to focus extra attention on patrolling in the park.
“The typical law enforcement response is that we spend extra time there,” Goodwin said. “Do enforcement and education. And we did that.”
But the livability unit wanted to find longer term solutions. Working with the First Christian Church, the officers formed a panel of stakeholders, including service providers and members of the homeless community, to discuss solutions.
“All of this has to do with the city of Corvallis changing the way we’re dealing with homelessness,” said Kevin Weaver, an outreach coordinator at First Christian Church.
He said he hopes the homeless people who visited the event feel that the city cares about them.
Brian Jackson, who is staying at the men’s cold weather shelter, approached the Linn Benton Housing Authority for information on housing options.
Jackson said it was great to see the police help the homeless rather than harass them.
“I’m friends with them,” he said. “They’ve actually helped me.”