Chris Townsend recently moved into a room after living in his car, thanks to the Peninsula Home Fund and Olympic Community Action Programs. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Townsend in Port Townsend: Homeless veteran gets a hand up, makes plans

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

For Peninsula Daily News

EDITOR’S NOTE: For 28 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund.

Today, we feature another in a series of articles on how the fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.

To donate online by credit card, visit https://secure.peninsuladaily news.com/homefund.

Eighteen-year-old Chris Townsend needed to earn a living. He joined the Army in spring 2006 and left his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, for another world.

Townsend became a parachute rigger at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, rigging cargo loads for air drops and jumping out of airplanes. That was during the day. He also completed a pair of college degrees: an associate in emergency management and another in fire science.

Mustering out in 2011, Townsend returned to San Antonio, where “it’s a great place to live, except it’s surrounded by Texas.” He stayed a few more years, but then he knew he had to seek a new life.

His decade-long marriage ended, and Townsend took to the road alone, first to Colorado, where he haunted the campgrounds and parks.

He heard next about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, so he lit out again, and found work tending bar at Sturgis’ Full Throttle Saloon.

As the rally — a gathering of some 500,000 riders — drew to a close in early August, Townsend turned his headlights toward the Pacific Ocean. He dreamed of living near the waves, where the air is salty and cool.

“I chase sunsets,” he said, and his journey west reflects this. September found him pulling into Seattle. The scene, though, was more urban than ocean.

“I was there for about 30 minutes when I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ ” Townsend recalls. So he drove up to Everett, spent the night in his car and looked at a map.

There was Port Townsend, his namesake city. He’d never been. Off he drove, finding his way to the big sign that reads “A Victorian Seaport & Arts Community.” The place itself lived up to that, and as Townsend took in the architecture, talked with people and felt the Port Townsend “attitude,” his search was over.

So he hoped. Despite his education and experience, the ensuing search for work yielded nothing in this small town. At age 30, Townsend joined the ranks of homeless veterans.

One of the worst things about living in your car, he said, is the fact that you look like it. Would-be employers and landlords see you coming and are wary.

Townsend continued camping in his old Saturn Ion before he found his way to the Port Townsend office of the Olympic Community Action Programs, or OlyCAP. It was October, and everything started to change.

With help from the Peninsula Home Fund, OlyCAP’s Justine Bedell was able to provide some gas vouchers. They eventually totaled $75, but their value, combined with Bedell’s time, isn’t so quickly quantified.

Townsend was able to drive to the Voices for Veterans Stand Down in Port Angeles, an event where vets find services from medical and dental to counseling, haircuts and clothing.

He also drove to job interviews and possible rentals. By late October, Townsend had landed full-time work at a cellular phone store in Port Townsend and moved into his own apartment.

He rents a room at the Bayside Hotel, the affordable wing of the restored Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock, and he has what he needs: a community kitchen on the top floor and a view of Hadlock Bay sunsets.

Still, as he drove to work, Townsend couldn’t relax. The tires on his Saturn were worn out, so every morning he’d wonder: Is today going to be the day one or more blow out?

A set of new tires was not a possibility — until he again heard from Bedell and OlyCAP. Townsend qualified for another voucher from the Peninsula Home Fund, this time for the $196 cost of four-wheeled peace of mind.

“They’ve filled the void,” Townsend said of OlyCAP.

He admitted, too, that before connecting with the agency, he’d just about run out of money — and hope.

Bedell helped him find some of that. Without her efforts, “I would be in a much darker place,” he said.

“She deserves countless accolades and admiration but would never seek them.”

Bedell is one of many devoted people, Townsend added, who offer a hand to those who are down on their luck.

“They’ve completely earned my respect and admiration, and I can only hope that soon I’m able to be the one with my hand out, trying to help someone up.”

In mid-November, Townsend realized he had stabilized his life enough to dismantle his campsite near the Port Townsend Safeway.

For 2017 and beyond, he has hopes, dreams and plans: taking the U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License Course in January and starting at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in the fall.

Recently, Townsend learned of a Canadian minesweeper, a 150-foot ship sitting in the Port of Alameda, Calif. What if the ship, currently a non-working vessel, could be brought north to Port Townsend and turned into affordable housing? What if he could form a nonprofit organization and apply for federal and state grants to refurbish it? Townsend envisions all of this, and then some.

Another idea: a grilled-cheese shop on Water Street, only it would not be a tourist trap. The eatery would offer inexpensive sandwiches for those who can pay and a free, hot meal for those who cannot.

“When you’re homeless, you have to buy ready-made food,” which is much more costly. And a hot meal, he well knows, means a lot to those buffeted by the Port Townsend wind.

He’d like to place this grilled-cheese joint right in front of City Hall, Townsend added, to remind civic leaders about the problem of homeless people in their midst.

Asked how he spends his time off work, Townsend replied that he does a lot of thinking these days, about life in Jefferson County, with its problems and possible solutions.

“I’m pretty introverted. I’m not a party guy,” he said, adding that his favorite evening activity is to buy a slice at Waterfront Pizza in Port Townsend and walk out to watch the sun descend into the west.

As for his Thanksgiving Day plans, Townsend wants to volunteer at the American Legion Hall in Port Townsend, where overnight shelter to those who need it and an abundant dinner will be offered.

Bedell, for her part, said she is impressed by Townsend’s perseverance.

“He lives and experiences his life like he only has one to live,” she added.

“Chris has an acute intellect and sense of humor; he is persistent and extremely good at pressing forth and surviving.

“Chris’ story is why I do social work: actually seeing people stabilize when they are climbing up from the bottom and have nothing.”

Townsend, capping his conversation with this reporter, had one more thing to add about the town with which he shares a name.

“I hope,” he deadpanned, “you get to interview me during my mayoral campaign.”

Peninsula’s safety net

The Peninsula Home Fund — a safety net for local residents when they suddenly face an emergency situation and can’t find help elsewhere — is seeking contributions for its annual holiday season fundraising campaign.

From Port Townsend to Forks, from Quilcene and Brinnon to Sequim and LaPush, money from the fund is used for hot meals for seniors; warm winter coats for kids; home repairs for a low-income family; needed prescription drugs; dental work; safe, drug-free temporary housing; eyeglasses — the list goes on and on.

• Assistance usually averages less than $100. The average amount of help this year has been $70 per person.

The maximum allowance per year is $350 per household.

• All instances of help are designed to get an individual or family through a crisis — and back on the path to self-sufficiency.

Home Fund case managers often work with each individual or family to develop a plan to become financially stable — and avoid a recurrence of the emergency that prompted aid from the fund.

As needed, Peninsula Home Fund contributions are often used in conjunction with money from churches, service clubs and other donors, enabling OlyCAP to stretch the value of the contribution.

The goal again: “a hand up, not a handout.”

• No money is deducted by the Peninsula Daily News for administration fees or any other overhead.

Every penny goes to OlyCAP.

The money goes to help the most vulnerable members of our community, from infants to families to seniors.

Please note: Because of heavy community demands, the loss of grants because of the economy and recent cuts in government funding, OlyCAP beginning in 2012 was permitted to use 10 percent — 10 cents of every dollar donated — to pay for the vital programs and services for Home Fund clients. (Previously there were no deductions.)

OlyCAP has kept it in the area of 8 percent, a fraction of the average overhead of other nonprofits.

• All contributions are IRS tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law for the year in which the check is written.

Your personal information is kept confidential.

PDN and OlyCAP do not rent, sell, give or otherwise share your address or other information with anyone or make any other use of it.

Out of money Dec. 31

Since its beginning in 1989, the fund has relied on the support of Jefferson and Clallam residents.

Individuals, couples, businesses, churches, organizations and school groups set a new record for contributions in 2014 — $271,981 — smashing the old record of $268,389 set Dec. 31, 2013.

As of Nov. 15, approximately $205,000 has been spent for Home Fund grants.

Most all of the remaining money — $75,000 — is expected to be spent before Dec. 31.

How to apply for a Home Fund grant

To apply for a Peninsula Home Fund grant, contact one of the three OlyCAP offices:

• OlyCAP’s Port Angeles office is at 228 W. First St., Suite J (Armory Square Mall); 360-452-4726. For Port Angeles- and Sequim-area residents.

• Its Port Townsend office is at 823 Commerce Loop; 360-385-2571. For Jefferson County residents.

• The Forks office is at 421 Fifth Ave.; 360-374-6193. For West End ­residents.

Leave a message in the voice mail box at any of the three numbers, and a Home Fund caseworker will phone you back.

OlyCAP’s website: www.olycap.org; email: action@olycap.org.

If you have any questions about the fund, phone Terry Ward, PDN publisher, at 360-417-3500. Or email tward@peninsula dailynews.com.

Contributions so far

A number of generous individuals and organizations have been donating money to the Peninsula Home Fund since the first of the year.

While most of the money is raised between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31, the fund itself never closes.

Donations of any amount are always welcome.

To donate online by credit card, please click on www.secure.peninsula dailynews.com/homefund.

Below is a list of donors whose contributions were processed between Jan. 16 and Nov. 16:

Name only

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Employees of JH Kelly and our extended families at Nippon Paper Industries, Longview.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Dorothea Morgan, Port Angeles.

• Janet MacDonald, Sequim. In honor of Robert P. Kernott.

• Marci and Betty Newlon, Sequim.

• Doris Nolan, Sequim.

• Joseph Pastran, Sequim.

• Myrtle and John Gossett, Port Angeles.

• Sara Lee O’Connor, Port Angeles.

• Ron and Phyllis Stecker, Sequim.

• Morgan-Ellis Family, Port Angeles. In memory of Brigham Morgan.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Robert Sheridan, Sequim.

• Carol L. Martell, Port Angeles. In honor of Eleanor Martell.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Christine Spagle, Port Ludlow.

• Queen of Angels Parish, Port Angeles.

• Roy and Marilyn Brown, Marquette, Mich.

• Helen G. Williams, Port Townsend. In memory of Wally Bowman of Discovery Bay.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Charlotte Connell, Sequim.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Paul Rogland, Port Townsend.

• Lois Bellamy and John Silver, Port Angeles. In memory of our parents.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Edna Kridler, Sequim.

• James H. Symes, Sequim.

• Deanna McHenry, Port Angeles. In memory of John P. McHenry.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Robert Sheridan, Sequim.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles.

• Michaelle and Alan Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Marjorie and Thomas Slappendel, Los Altos, Calif. In memory of John McHenry.

• Francis (Douglas) Platten, Port Angeles.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles.

• Una Walker, Vancouver, Wash.

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Danette Grady, Sequim.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Robert Sheridan, Sequim.

• Corena Stern, Port Townsend.

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Paul Rogland, Port Townsend.

• Roy and Marilyn Brown, Marquette, Mich.

• Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles.

• Peggy Manspeaker, Port Ludlow.

Amount only

• Port Angeles, $20.

• Port Angeles, $25.

• Port Angeles, $100.

• Port Townsend, $25.

• Port Angeles, $30.

• Carlsborg, $700.

• Port Townsend, $100. In memory of Gerald Thorsen.

• Port Angeles, $10.

• Port Angeles, $50. For Deborah, with love.

• Port Angeles, $100.

• Port Angeles, $1,500. In memory of Eleanor and Helen.

Name and amount

• Randall Johnson, Port Angeles, $300. In memory of GW (Pat) and Lorraine Johnson.

• Joe Cammack and employees of Jim’s Pharmacy, Port Angeles, $846.36.

Please accept the enclosed check for $846.36. Joe Cammack, the owner of Jim’s Pharmacy, and the employees came up with a monthly charity fundraiser for local organizations in our community called “Shop with Loyalty, Shop Locally.”

The month of December 2015 was the month for your wonderful organization. We had donation jars at each register and brought in used books to sell to customers. Jim’s also donates a percentage of our over-the-counter sales for the month.

The employees of Jim’s also took up a collection to donate in Joe’s name as a Christmas present. With the help of our customers, employees and generosity of Jim’s Pharmacy, we were able to collect $846.36.

This is our way of saying “thank you,” and we hope that this donation helps your wonderful organization help those in need in our community.

• Christopher Shea, Sequim, $25.

• Robert and Virginia Kuhn, Port Angeles, $100.

• Just Dolls of Washington, Port Angeles, $500.

• Women in Ministry & Mission of Sequim Community Church, Port Angeles, $100.

• Dorothy West, Sequim, $100. In memory of Earl M. West.

• Strait Air Volksgruppe, Port Angeles, $1,000.

EVEN THE BEST handwriting can be hard to decipher at times.

Please report any errors in this list to 360-452-2345.

We’ll rerun the listing correctly.

Our sincerest appreciation again to our donors.

Give voice to your heart

A GIFT OF any size is welcome.

Peninsula Home Fund has never been a campaign of heavy hitters.

If you can contribute only a few dollars, please don’t hesitate because you think it won’t make a difference.

Every gift makes a difference, regardless of its size.

From children’s pennies to checks for thousands of dollars, the generosity of Peninsula Daily News readers makes a positive difference.

All contributions are IRS tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law for the year in which the check is written.

Your personal information is kept confidential.

PDN does not rent, sell, give or otherwise share your address or other information with anyone or make any other use of it.

To donate, write a check to “Peninsula Home Fund” and attach it to the coupon that appears in today’s PDN.

Mail both items to Peninsula Home Fund, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

You can also contribute online using a credit card: Just click on https://secure.peninsuladaily news.com/homefund.

To delay may mean to forget.

EACH FALL, AS daylight gives way to longer nights and the hurried pace of the holidays, the Peninsula Daily News asks each of us to consider contributing to the Home Fund.

Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the fund’s campaign. Over the next few weeks, the PDN will highlight a few of the 3,000 lives the Home Fund has touched during the past year.

You will learn how your commitment to the fund sustains hope and creates pathways out of poverty.

But, most importantly, you will have the chance to meet and learn more about some of the people you, through the fund, helped in 2016.

The Peninsula Home Fund uniquely captures and puts into action the power of community. Through our work together — the Peninsula Daily News, Olympic Community Action Programs, partnering organizations and most of all you — we have built a foundation where opportunity and compassion are cornerstones.

The Home Fund is a place where every contribution makes a difference. Donations do not sit idle but are put into action every single day to help meet basic human needs.

You will learn about how a pair of glasses transformed a life and how a bit of rent sustained a family through some very tough times.

You may read about the bus pass that helped a veteran build a career or how access to a dentist created a smile where there was none.

On the pages of the PDN, you will have the chance to experience, through the words of those you helped, how the fund is frequently a catalyst for hope and courage. It is, for so many, the promise of better tomorrows.

The North Olympic Peninsula is an amazing place that amazing people call home.

As your Community Action Agency, OlyCAP deeply values the trust that you and the PDN place in us to help people access the resources needed to be safer, healthier, warmer and increasingly economically and socially stable.

We promise to use every Home Fund contribution in a transparent and responsible manner. We will continue and expand our partnerships with others who share our desire to help people, change lives and strengthen communities.

Recognize and honor

We recognize and honor every donation as a personal and economic sacrifice you have chosen to entrust in our care.

Thank you for your support of the Home Fund.

Sincerely,

Dale Wilson,

Executive director, Olympic Community Action Programs

Chris Townsend tells of the help he received as he sits in his room at the Bayside Hotel in Port Hadlock. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

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