SEATTLE — After snow snarled Seattle last week, advocates for the homeless said it could be a major opportunity to connect with people in need.
The city opened about 550 additional shelter beds during the winter storm. Meg Olberding, of the Human Services Department, said many of the people don’t know what services might be available for their individual situation.
“A lot of folks that came inside because of the weather have been outside for a long time,” Olberding said. “So, coming inside for them was a big transition, and they need a lot of support.”
City leaders quickly organized a resource fair at the exhibition hall of Seattle Center. Dozens of service providers gathered to work with people experiencing homelessness.
Services ranged from new ID cards, to help with the criminal justice system, housing, care, and EBT.
“We’re really trying to take advantage of the opportunity to see what we can do to help folks longer term,” said Olberding.
Scott Parker came to get started on a new ID card and to look for a better housing situation.
“I wasn’t too prepared for the snow,” Parker laughed while wearing shorts.
He said talking to caseworkers about work and housing opportunities made him feel more stable.
“Takes a long time to establish a life from being nobody to being somebody, you know. It really does," Parker said. "I feel a lot better, don’t feel like I’m losing it anymore.”
Jimmy Horn was also there filling out a job application. He said he’d been without a home for about a month and living clean of his addiction for about three weeks.
“I was just a normal guy, had a job, a girlfriend,” he said. “That stuff… just got me.”
Horn said a cancer diagnosis led to a pain pill addiction. He was looking forward to getting back on his feet.
“I don’t want to play the pity card,” Horn said. “Just want to strap up and get going again.”
“Definitely take advantage of things like this where everything is laid out to help us,” he added. “It’s good.”
That’s precisely what Olberding hopes to do – connect people to their next step in life, and a better housing situation.
“You hang in there,” she told a woman passing by.