Klamath Falls, Ore. - The Klamath Lake Community Action Services held their annual Winter Give-a-Way on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at the Klamath Assembly of God Church. The event is designed to provide free items, medical care and food for the homeless. New and gently used blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, jackets, gloves, medical screenings and flu vaccines were just some of the items provided to those in need.
"The Winter Give-a-Way is an annual event that we developed in order to gather the homeless population in the community in one place on one day to conduct our annual point in time count." states Michael Smith, Quality Assurance Specialist, Klamath Lake Community Action Services. "The point in time count is an essential census of the homeless population. That allows us to understand if our services are working and areas that we need to improve. As well as to see the demographics of a certain population that is more at risk for homelessness."
Smith continues, "A lot of our funding is determined by the results of this survey. It is critical to keep our services going, offer new services and help the community as a whole."
"There is a wide variety of reasons a person may end up homeless." says Smith. Being homeless is often a choice and the results of a situation that has been forced upon them. Smith states, "I think a lot of times it is a combination of things, but its just that life happens. Medical bills can hit, somebody moving or losing a job, things of that nature."
In December, Pacific Power in cooperation with the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and Hope Lutheran Church held a blanket drive where 257 new and gently used blankets were donated by members of the community. Those donated blankets were distributed at the Give-a-Way event.
"The most important thing is to get the blankets in front of those who need them most, and this is the best place to do that." Todd Andres, Regional Business Manager Pacific Power. "This is about the community, it was not Pacific Power buying all these blankets, it was the community donating blankets. We were just the avenue to help collect them and get them to the right place."
Along with the clothing, food, and blankets. There was an area dedicated to medical screenings for the homeless too.
"Generally, these folks don't seek out health care until they are really sick. So, this is a really good way for us to reach out to them and get them some preventative care." Chad Partington, Community Parametric Cascade Health Alliance. "Homeless folks are exposed to the elements every day. With the change in temperatures coupled with communal living, if one gets sick, it will spread pretty quickly. So, the significance of getting a flu shot is to prevent that spread and try to keep them as healthy as we can."
Most everyone that attended are homeless in one shape or form. Some are unsheltered, meaning they are living under the elements, camping or a garage that is not meant for human habitat. The remaining are considered to be sheltered, if lucky, they might have a vehicle to sleep in, couch surfing with friends or family, staying at the mission, or in the warming shelter.
However, one thing in common of everyone that attended is that they had a story to tell. One reason or another life has brought them to where they are now. Some only needed a few items, while others needed more. But all of the people I spoke with appreciated everything that was being offered and extremely thankful for the event.
"This event shows that the community cares about people that are less fortunate than them." exclaimed Peggy Payan, an attendee of the event. "A lot of people struggle, and to be honest, they don't like to ask for help. It means a lot! Today we got blankets, we got clothes, boxes of cereal, and we got to meet some really good people."
Samantha Chandler and her sister Krystal were digging through a table of items, looking for clothes for their kids. When asked what they had been able to find. "I was able to get some blankets for me and my kids and shoes for my son he is growing out completely," says Samantha Chandler. "I came to get some warm clothes and find information on community assistance. So far were able to get some nice warm jackets and a sweater," says Krystal Chandler.
Attendees that I spoke with were quite thankful and appreciative of what was being offered for them. Some only needed a few items, while others needed more. But all of the people I spoke with appreciated everything that was being offered. My last question to the homeless I interviewed was, "If you could say anything about the event or to the organizers, what would it be?"
"I would like to say thank you. It means a lot to us that they are willing to take the time to do this and that they care. It is nice to see that people actually do care and that people are not judging those that are less fortunate," said Payan.
The homeless attendees were not the only ones thankful for the opportunities provided from the event. The small army of volunteers were also thankful that they were able to help.
"It is amazing to see so many different people coming together to give them [homeless]; blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, food, all the services that they may need," said Billy Redd, Administrator Faith Tabernacle Church.
"This is a great way to give back to the community and give people a flu shot that might not normally visit their doctor." said Partington.
"This event is really good for Klamath Falls and it shows the heart that Klamath Falls has for the people that are in need we are just happy to be a part of that. it's a good day, we should all be proud," said Andres
Final numbers from the census were not available at press time. However, a great sense of accomplishment and thankfulness overwhelmed everyone involved.
If you would like more information on Klamath Lake Community Action Services, the Winter Give-a-Way or just to see how you can help, contact KLCAS at 541-882-3500 or visit them online at http://www.klcas.org/.
~Brian Gailey, Publisher, Klamath Falls News.