James Wellings has spent seven years living in a van. But things are looking up.
He said he is moving into an apartment, and he had dental and vision screenings, immunizations and a basic medical checkup at Thursday's Homeless Connect event.
Wellings, 47, was among dozens of people who came to the event, which was part of the Thurston County Homeless Census. Held at First Christian Church and Temple Beth Hatfiloh, it was an opportunity for the county to conduct its annual count of the homeless, as well as to offer social services for people on the streets.
"I think it's wonderful," Wellings said.
Nearly 70 people arrived in the first three hours, said Steve Briggs, event manager for Homeless Connect.
"People were camped in front of the doorways" when the event began at 8 a.m., said Anna Schlecht, census coordinator.
It was an opportunity for people to get haircuts, food and social services from multiple organizations. A row of tents was set up along Franklin Street, offering services to people who didn't want to come in, and for their pets.
Sheena Weber came with her fiancé, Ian Azure, 28, and 4-year-old boy, Ayden. She was happy to stand up and be counted for the census.
"It can help, like, all the homeless get better services for everyone that needs it," said Weber, 30.
Organizers say that's true; the census is used to help the community qualify for grants for social services.
Weber and others were visibly exhausted. She and Ayden took a brief nap at a table at First Christian, Weber with her head on the table and Ayden sprawled out on chairs.
The family has been living off the goodwill of others in their homes. Two of her other children, ages 6 and 7, were in school.
She said they are working with the Housing Authority of Thurston County to get permanent housing, maybe in March.
"This is awesome," Azure said of Homeless Connect.
Many of the people working Thursday were volunteers, from the people conducting the surveys to the doctors and nurses providing medical services.
"We're trying to work on our vision of a homeless-free community," said Dr. Diana Yu, Thurston County health officer. "So one of the ways to do that is to connect people to the services they need."
Schlecht said it also served another purpose.
"It's kind of a dry run of what we would do in the event of a major disaster," she said.
Census-takers also took to the streets, homeless shelters and common places where people fly signs looking for money.
In a major change from past years, they didn't go into the woods to count people in makeshift camps. Organizers were concerned about volunteers'safety and did not want to alarm campers. Violence in such camps spiked in the past year, with three homicides associated with people without permanent addresses. Victims of such violence also were homeless in some cases.
Results for this year's census are expected in the spring.
Last year's census counted 724 homeless people in the county. Of the 691 people who gave an age, 320 were 25 or younger. There were 45 homeless people counted between 18 and 20 years old; 87 between 21 and 25; and 188 younger than 18.