David Wayne Carpenter can’t remember the last time someone else cut his hair.
“The second he starts taking off the hair, you start realizing how badly you needed a cleanup,” Carpenter said while a hair stylist buzzed the back of his head.
“Immediately you start feeling better because you can hold your head up higher, you can be more confident, and it puts a smile back on your face,” Carpenter said after taking a look in the mirror. “A haircut goes a long way sometimes.”
Carpenter has been living out of his car in a nearby church parking lot for the last year. He’s one of more than 250 people who showed up Thursday to the annual Project Homeless Connect, a one-stop resource fair in Vancouver that provided free legal services, donated clothing for the homeless, housing help and medical care. About 40 vendors offered services or information at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
“We’re trying to provide more options to folks,” said Kate Budd, deputy director with the Council for the Homeless. She said Project Homeless Connect has grown over time and is now in its eighth year. “It’s one place for people to access all the different resources here in Clark County.”
“This is awesome. I can’t believe it,” said a woman named Debbie, who has been living on the streets for five years. Thursday was her first time visiting Project Homeless Connect and by noon she had already gotten her vision checked, visited the dentist and was about to hop on a stool to get her hair cut.
Derek Thompson, a retired hair stylist and co-founder of the organization Hands of Favor, began cutting some layers and showed Debbie how to style her new side-swept bangs.
Thompson’s organization works with local stylists to provide free haircuts to those in need. He makes monthly trips to charities in Portland and Clark County, but makes sure to always have a booth at Project Homeless Connect.
“We’re the cherry on top,” Thompson said. “We just love people and want to make them feel good. It’s what we have to offer.”