Helping the hungry and homeless

On Nov. 17, Share organized an event, in coordination with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, that was aimed at bringing attention to the issues surrounding hunger and homelessness — two issues that are deeply intertwined.

Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing had reached crisis levels, and was described by Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt as the “uncomfortable truth.”

Share’s Director of Programs, Amy Reynolds, said last year alone the organization sheltered 900 people, connected 800 people living on the streets with services, provided 93,000 meals and sent 1,900 children home with backpacks filled with food, so that they wouldn’t go hungry during the weekends when school is not in session.

In Clark County, even those who do have shelter are struggling. Approximately 23 percent of renters in Clark County are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent. Many are forced to decide between paying for their housing, or for their utilities and food.

Men, women and families in Camas and Washougal are making those difficult choices every day. Several local programs started and supported by non-profit organizations, businesses and individuals are working to fill the gaps.

Refuel Washougal has provided an average of 40 free meals every Friday at Silver Star Search and Rescue. The Inter-Faith Treasure House gives away 60,000 pounds of food each month at its food bank, serves 500 meals per month through The Lost and Found Cafe, and provides emergency rent and utility assistance. The East County Family Resource Center offers a wide range of services, from mental health counseling to food and clothing assistance.

The next four weeks represent an important time for many of these organizations, as efforts to benefit them are now underway.

Stuff the Bus is collecting food through Friday, Dec. 4. Donations, which can be made at local schools and businesses, support the CAROL and American Legion food basket programs, Children’s Home Society and the Inter-faith Treasure House.

During Walk ‘n’ Knock, set for Saturday, Dec. 5, hundreds of volunteers will scour Clark County neighborhoods for donations set out by residents in large paper grocery bags that can be found inserted into the Dec. 1 Camas-Washougal Post-Record, and the Dec. 2 edition of The Columbian.

As a community, Clark County has a long way to go until it can emerge from the hunger and housing crisis that has developed during the course of many years. But the residents of Camas and Washougal have and must continue to do their part to address these issues right here at home.