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Guidebook Helps Newly Homeless Survive On Clark County's Streets


Tents and belongings line the street edge outside Share House, the men’s homeless shelter on the west edge of downtown Vancouver.

Tents and belongings line the street edge outside Share House, the men’s homeless shelter on the west edge of downtown Vancouver.

Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian

It all started with a post-it note back in February.

Vancouver resident Lois Smith was heading home from a volunteer shift at Friends of the Carpenter, a faith-based nonprofit that provides services for the most vulnerable. Most of the people who come in have fallen on hard times, and many are homeless.

Smith had seen the number of people living on the streets tick up in Clark County and started to wonder if there was a way she could help.

That sparked an idea that Smith scribbled on a sticky note later that night.

“I had been hearing so many different stories from homeless people on how to survive,” Smith said. “And I thought, what happens if someone is newly homeless? How do they know where to turn?”

Six months later, that idea has evolved into a sturdy, pocket-sized resource guide filled with survival tips and helpful phone numbers for the newly homeless.

“This is the labor of love,” Smith said as she pulled out the guidebook that’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Smith organized a team of volunteers to crowdsource ideas for the newly unsheltered. She said nearly all of the tips came from people who are or used to be homeless. 

The guidebook is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is printed on waterproof and tear-proof material. It's filled with survival tips, resource lists, and phone numbers to homeless service providers.

The guidebook is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is printed on waterproof and tear-proof material. It's filled with survival tips, resource lists, and phone numbers to homeless service providers.

Molly Solomon/OPB

“It really was driven by the homeless for the homeless,” Smith said. “It’s coming from people who’ve experienced it.” 

The survival tips range from how to deal with the elements while living outdoors to advice on getting a job while homeless. It also includes the city’s camping ordinance and outlines what’s legal and what’s not. On the back is a list of phone numbers to service providers and housing help.

Another important feature is the material it’s printed on: a waterproof and tear-proof plastic.

“It would survive on the streets,” Smith explained. “So when we get those torrential rainstorms or any bad weather, it will withstand those elements and hopefully remain intact and able to be used by anyone who needs it.” 

With funding from the Council for the Homeless, Smith has printed 2,000 copies and has signed up 45 local organizations and individuals to distribute them. She’s hoping to get them in the hands of those who need them before the rainy season begins. 

If you or your organization are interested in distributing copies of the pocket guide for the newly homeless, you can email Lois Smith at lsmit2389@yahoo.com or reach her by phone at 360-326-3970.

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