Roy Phillips unloads food and supplies for Project Homeless Connect at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Roy Phillips unloads food and supplies for Project Homeless Connect at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Happy to help

Project Homeless Connect wraps up after week of outreach

On a cold winter day in Sterling, volunteers with the annual Project Homeless Connect event stood outside the Sterling Senior Citizens Center, handing out useful supplies to those in need.

Tuesday marked the last official day of this year’s Project Homeless Connect, which spanned more than a week instead of its traditional one-day format. Each day, volunteers set up at a different established location around the central peninsula and handed out backpacks full of things like hygiene products and blankets, as well as food bags filled with nonperishable, shelf-stable items.

Another important part of the Project Homeless Connect mission is the Point in Time Count, which looks at how many people were experiencing homelessness on a given night and is used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assess the extent of homelessness issues in an area. This year, participants in the Point in Time Count were asked where they slept on the night of Jan. 26.

Kathy Gensel, who is the co-chair for this year’s Project Homeless Connect, said Tuesday that while they don’t yet have an official tally, she felt that they had reached just as many people this year as they did last year, if not more.

“We’re not hoping that the numbers were higher,” Gensel said. “But we are happy that we were able to help more people.”

In addition to the daily pickup points, groups participated in direct outreach throughout the week, bringing those same supplies to encampments where peninsula residents experiencing homelessness are known to be.

Gensel said that even though Tuesday was the last official day of the event, the surplus donations will be available at Love, INC. for anyone who needs them. Love, INC. is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Some people, like Arlene Jasky, stopped by Tuesday to pick up a new pair of gloves or a warm hat for someone they know. Others, like Dale Curtis and his dog, Jackson, picked up some pet food in addition to the regular supplies that were available. Most clients were also sent away with a sandwich donated by Arby’s and a cup of hot Kaladi Brothers coffee.

“I feel very blessed,” Curtis said after being handed a backpack.

Roy Phillips, who works for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, climbed in and out of the Food Bank’s box truck throughout the day, grabbing miscellaneous supplies as they were requested. Gensel said that some of the more popular items this year were the tobacco quit kits, the portable mess kits, diapers and feminine hygiene products.

“I think with the diapers and feminine hygiene products, those are just everyday things that people need,” Gensel said. “The problem is, they’re not cheap.”

Roy Phillips unloads food and supplies for Project Homeless Connect at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Roy Phillips unloads food and supplies for Project Homeless Connect at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Project Homeless Connect volunteers help Arlene Jasky, center, pick out hats and gloves for a friend during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Project Homeless Connect volunteers help Arlene Jasky, center, pick out hats and gloves for a friend during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Dale Curtis, left, speaks with volunteer Heather Schaefer, right, during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizen’s Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Dale Curtis, left, speaks with volunteer Heather Schaefer, right, during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizen’s Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Bill Kelley, left, hands a backpack full of supplies and towels to Dale Curtis, right, during a Project Homeless Connect Event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Bill Kelley, left, hands a backpack full of supplies and towels to Dale Curtis, right, during a Project Homeless Connect Event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Dale Curtis poses for a photo with his dog, Jackson, during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Dale Curtis poses for a photo with his dog, Jackson, during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

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