Unhoused of Malheur County can get free food, clothing at Tuesday event in Ontario

Shane Hewitt, a volunteer at the Origins Faith Community day shelter in Ontario, hands a homeless man a cup of hot noodles. A wellness event to help the homeless is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 25. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – An event aimed to help those with unsettled housing is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 25, in Ontario to provide food, clothing and Covid vaccinations.

The Winter Wellness Event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at 312 N.W. 2nd St. in Ontario. The event is being orchestrated by Origins Faith Community Outreach Initiative and Community in Action.

“We inviting anyone that’s homeless or not in a stable housing situation – doubled with family, couch surfing ­– to come over,” said Priscilla Garcia, housing programs manager at Community in Action.

The event happens a day before the annual Point-in-Time Count, which sends people throughout the community to as accurately as possible count the unhoused living in Malheur County. The last county found about 300 unhoused people.

Community in Action is still looking for volunteers who can help out for a couple of hours on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Garcia said the wellness event is a first for the nonprofits that organized it. One goal is to reach people who should included in the homeless count.

Those who attend can get free winter clothing, including coats, food, and toiletries.

Vaccinations also will be provided. Those who get their original shots or the booster will get a pizza lunch, a food box and $50 in gift cards.

The next day, volunteers will team up with case managers from Community in Action to contact those considered homeless or unhoused.

“We have a more transient population and more unhoused people coming into the area,” Garcia said. “We just want to make sure we’re getting an accurate count.”

She said more people are living in their cars. Others are in the informal camps that develop around Ontario or are in motels because they can’t find rental homes.

Garcia said the count involves getting basic information from those contacted. A more accurate number “translates into dollars to help families,” she said.

Those who want to volunteer to help on Wednesday can contact Community in Action at 541-889-9555.