Earlier this year, the Council for the Homeless opened a new one-stop access point for those seeking help.
The nonprofit organization celebrated that milestone at its annual Hope and Action fundraising luncheon Friday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
"We did it," said Andy Silver, the council's executive director. "People in crisis can now call one number."
Staff meet with homeless people wherever they are — a shelter or hospital in town, rural north county, even the jail — to connect them with 30 shelter and housing programs run by eight different organizations, Silver said.
In the six months since the Housing Solutions Center opened on Andresen Road in Vancouver, the council has placed 134 families in emergency shelter and 180 families and individuals in housing programs, Silver said.
"Although we celebrate these successes," Silver said, "we are not here today to declare victory."
About 70 people in Vancouver are chronically homeless and difficult to help, he said. They are heavy users of emergency rooms and the jail.
"It is more expensive to have these individuals living on the streets than it is to create a housing program for them," Silver said.
In addition, about 700 children in Clark County lack stable housing.
"These children miss more days of school than their classmates and are more likely to fall behind and drop out," Silver said.
Although the council is working with other agencies to address these daunting problems, at the luncheon, the organization focused on the bright spots.
The council honored Karen Evans, who is retiring from
Clark County Community Services, for helping build partnerships between government and nonprofit agencies.
The council also handed out six awards:
• Quiet hero: Roy Rhone has volunteered for the Council for the Homeless since 2012. He helps at the front desk, takes calls, enters data and assists clients.
• Community advocate:Missy Shepherd has served as volunteer coordinator for Project Homeless Connect since 2010. She recruited and prepared volunteers who supplied clients with everything from a new pair of socks to employment assistance.
• Community volunteers: Dave and Jill Hellerud moved to Vancouver from Minnesota in 2006 with their children, Erin and Benji. They began volunteering for the Winter Hospitality Overflow program through their church, Beautiful Savior Lutheran. Dave took time off his job each year during the week the church hosted the overflow homeless shelter so he could help.
• Community supporters: Terry and Ron Frederiksen have raised money for Innovative Services Northwest, and helped renovate the Share Fromhold Center, where the Council for the Homeless Housing Solutions Center is located. Terry also has volunteered with the YWCA for 20 years and the Hough Foundation for 10. Ron has served on the board of Identity Clark County, the Columbia River Economic Development Council and City of Vancouver Aviation Advisory Committee.
• Community supporters: The Hidden Charitable Trust, created by the family that founded a brick factory in Vancouver more than a century ago, has provided scholarships for local students at Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver. The trust also has supported such nonprofit organizations as the YWCA, Open House Ministries, Boys & Girls Club and Loaves and Fishes. Fourth- and fifth-generation Hidden family members serve as trustees, including brothers Monte and Oliver, along with their wives, Naomi and Donna, and associate Jim Cromer.
• Community partner: The Homeless Employment Navigators at Columbia River Mental Health Services help homeless people hunt down job leads, write résumés, complete employment applications, access transportation and prepare for interviews.