Seeking ‘second chance,’ Lewis County residents attend annual resource fair during PIT count


Standing in front of the Blue Pavilion at the Lewis County fairgrounds, Adrian Gillespie said a “lifestyle” of drugs and alcohol resulted in him calling the streets of Centralia home for the past five years.

“I want to clean up my act and have a second chance at life to get my life back in order, back on track,” Gillespie said Friday. “And I knew this was a place where people who are homeless and have nothing can come.”

The Lewis County Homeless Connect offered homeless residents a chance to connect

with different community resources and an opportunity to begin the “second chance” Gillespie desired. The annual event coincides with the county’s Point In Time Count  (PIT), an annual attempt by counties throughout the state to count the number of homeless residents.

Required by law, last year the PIT counted 153 homeless residents in Lewis County, up from 120 in 2022. The county attempts to track the number of “unsheltered homeless” people in the county, which is defined by the Washington State Department of Commerce as a “person residing in a place not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings (on the street).” Statewide results are expected in early December.

While the Salvation Army of Lewis County is tasked with the annual count, the figure is an imperfect snapshot of the number of homeless residents.

“Not everyone wants to be found, necessarily,” said John Abplanalp, deputy director of public health and social services for Lewis County.

At the Blue Pavilion on Friday, Gillespie and other attendees could access various services from more than 30 providers.

“Rather than just checking that box, it’s really good to get people resourced,” said Salvation Army Captain Gin Pack.

Nathan Rodriguez, owner of Nate 98s Barbershop, was on hand to provide free haircuts to residents. About two hours into the event, he estimated he had given out 15 haircuts.

“Everyone deserves a nice cut,” he said. “I’m just grateful to help out.”

Other services included a veterinarian clinic for four-legged friends, behavioral health services, housing programs and workforce programs. Meja Handlen, director of Public Health and Social Services, said more than 250 community members accessed Homeless Connect on Friday, though not all were unhoused.

Preliminary numbers showed that the resource fair provided:

16 pets with three vaccines each

46 vouchers to the Department of Licensing

58 services through Valley View Health Center, which included seven flu vaccines

Robin Cozad and Joey Bannish, co-owners of Destination Hope and Recovery, were on hand to provide free Narcan to attendees. The drug reverses an overdose from opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription drug medications.

“You never know when you’re going to be around someone that uses something, whether they intended to use fentanyl or not,” Bannish said. “There’s always a risk, so it’s good to have.”

The organization provides foundational community supportive housing and employment services and operates the recovery navigator program in five counties in Southwest Washington.

“The Recovery Navigator program doesn’t just work with folks who are homeless,” Bannish said. “It’s really about people who are struggling with addiction, struggling to access services and things, being able to provide some intensive case management.”

According to Bannish, housing can create a barrier to recovery. Even after someone receives treatment, the cost of rent and a lack of affordable housing, create a challenge.

“It’s a real shame when people are completing detox and inpatient treatment, then coming right back out to homelessness,” Cozad said. “It defeats the purpose of them getting stable during that detoxing and impatient time.”

Patrick Morrison, a staff member at Hope Alliance, said it was important for the organization to have a presence at the event. A nonprofit, Hope Alliance is the county’s only accredited, 24/7, free and confidential crisis program for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“We know that a great majority of women who are homeless are domestic violence survivors,” Morrison said. “That’s partly, mainly, why they are on the streets. So we just want to reach out to them.”

Information about Hope Alliance is available at The crisis line for victims of physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence or sexual assault is open 24/7 at 360-748-6601. The website also has links to donate and for people seeking a “quick escape.”

“We answer our phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Morrison said. “We answer the phone all of the time.”