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South Whidbey ponders homeless at annual count

Linda Jacobson gives a hand massage to Rena Heino during an event to count the homeless on a community and national level on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Bayview Hall. Toiletries, clothes and a warm meal were provided for people who participated in the count.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Linda Jacobson gives a hand massage to Rena Heino during an event to count the homeless on a community and national level on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Bayview Hall. Toiletries, clothes and a warm meal were provided for people who participated in the count.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

For some in Island County, finding a home and a safe place to live is a struggle.

The issue of homelessness on South Whidbey was front and center on Thursday, Jan. 23, at Bayview Hall during a national event to count the homeless.

The event provided much-needed resources for these community members such as hot meals, toiletries and clothes for people who participated.

For Tracey Corradini, 53, finding a place to stay has been difficult this month.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she said before looking through the jacket rack.

Corradini has been staying at a temporary apartment provided by Calvary Chapel Whidbey Island in Clinton, which is in high demand.

Corradini has searched for an affordable place to stay, but has been declined because of her credit.

In two weeks time her place in the apartment will be up. She will be homeless and looking for a new place to stay for herself and her three boys.

“It’s tough,” she said. “But I’m not the only one.”

When Corradini sees others who are homeless in the community, she wonders “What about the other people?”

“We need to find a place for people to live,” she said.

“Homeless people aren’t just dirty or drug users — they are families.”

Corradini’s struggle and others were heard loud and clear during a discussion portion of the event. More than 40 people attended, including volunteers and the homeless.

Community members from several organizations such as Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, Opportunity Council, Island County Department of Human Services, Whidbey Institute, Whidbey Island Nourishes, The HUB, Readiness to Learn, Family Resource Center and Whidbey Institute joined in the conversation to come up with solutions.

Judy Thorslund, a volunteer with Good Cheer, attended the event and said she was hopeful something will grow out of the newly-formed group, named South Whidbey Homeless Coalition.

“One is too many,” she said of the number of people who are homeless on South Whidbey.

Thorslund said she would like to “change the picture” of poverty on the South End by using resources from people who care.

Charlene Ray, a mental health supervisor with Island County Human Services, said she was excited to see this effort at a grassroots level.

“It’s a community issue,” she said. “And it’s an issue we all have to get involved with.”

Ray said she heard ideas ranging from building a hospitality house to providing temporary shelter.

This was the first year the county department participated in the event. Three other locations held similar events throughout the county. The Opportunity Council hosted the count for the past 10 years.

Joanne Pelant, housing resource coordinator with Island County Human Services, was also on hand to gauge the issue.

“I learned the issue is very complicated community-wide,” she said. “In order to begin a solution, many different parts need to come to the table.”

She said the homeless face a range of issues when finding affordable housing including felonies, bad credit, health issues and prior evictions, which can lead to being locked out of options for housing or employment.

“We need people in the community to come forward,” Pelant said.

Pelant hopes to see resources from landlords, or people who may have an extra room who are willing to rent to people who need it, she said.

The national count will be finalized later this month. On South Whidbey 17 people were counted throughout the day.

“I’m really grateful for this community,” Pelant said. “Especially this group trying to organize. In the end it’s a community issue.”

 

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