Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

A burger and a bit off the top: Homeless receive services at barbecue

Nikki McFadden secured her place in line and waited for nearly an hour Tuesday for a free haircut at a Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes barbecue and homeless fair.

As her turn came up, she wavered when asked to decide on a hairstyle and answered with shoulder shrug.

Haircuts, veterinary services for pets, disability assistance, socks, toothbrushes, health care enrollment, food and sunscreen were among the free items and services offered by organizations such as SNAP Homeless Services, United Healthcare Community Plan, Community Health Association of Spokane and Catholic Charities.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes has been hosting a barbecue for the homeless for several years, a twice annual event attended by hundreds.

Spokane’s homeless population of 1,149, as of early June, is higher than last year. It’s a troubling turnabout after three years of decline.

Bringing in providers is a new addition to the barbecue, and hopefully, a permanent one, said Colin Harris, a Spokane Homeless Coalition volunteer and Lourdes parishioner.

The Homeless Coalition hosts a similar event in January called Homeless Connect. Volunteers hope the church’s annual barbecue can be a mid-year gathering where people can receive services or find referrals for their needs.

“I’ve had nothing but complete support,” said Harris, who acknowledged he piggybacked on the church’s barbecue because it’s well attended. Parishioners spread the word about the barbecue while handing out sandwiches twice per day, Monday through Friday.

Harold Siebert and his dog, Rosco P. Coltrane, lost their home last week; to make matters worse someone stole the 51-year-old’s wallet, cell phone and anxiety medication.

While picking up a sandwich earlier in the week, Siebert saw a flyer about the barbecue. On Tuesday, the man and his dog paid a visit to the church and were first to see the on-site veterinarian, parishioner Gordon Jewett who offered his services free of charge.

Jewett said he wanted to help because pets are often a homeless person’s only friend.

“It’s something I feel called to do,” he said. “It’s what we can contribute.”

The services needed for Rosco were beyond what he could do Tuesday, because the terrier is 14 year s old, but he gave Siebert a referral.

Next up was a 6-month-old pit bull. He got a rabies shot, a flea treatment and a license. His owner, Melinda Fenske, also found out her new pup can’t hear.

“You guys don’t know how much this helps,” she said. “We were trying to save up.”

The Paul Mitchell school frequently works with the homeless community offering free haircuts, said Sarah Chen, a “learning leader.”

“It’s tons of fun and a great experience.”