Assessor collection effort keeps homeless warm

Kitsap County Assessor employee Jeff Erickson, who once lived on the street himself for a winter, helped to collect items to benefit the homeless.  - Charlie Bermant
Kitsap County Assessor employee Jeff Erickson, who once lived on the street himself for a winter, helped to collect items to benefit the homeless.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant

The Kitsap County Assessor’s Office donated several hundred sleeping bags, blankets and warm clothing to the Salvation Army this week, the result of a three-month collection program intended to protect the local homeless against what could be a rough winter.

“This is a great effort,” said Jim Baker, the Bremerton Corps officer for the Salvation Army, as he stuffed a van with the bags and blankets. “You have given us a lot of valuable support.”

The program began early in the summer, when assessor’s staff started to bring spare blankets and sleeping bags from their homes.

A few shelves in a storage room were soon filled, with sleeping bags, blankets, coats, sweaters, socks and underwear.

Baker said that about 1,000 homeless people live in Kitsap County, with most of the donations to be distributed to them throughout the winter. He added that many of the items won’t last very long.

“If someone lives outside in a sleeping bag it can get beat up pretty fast,” he said. “They have no place to clean them, so the blankets might not last that long.”

Baker said the poor economy has encouraged a certain amount of giving.

“I predict compassion will remain,” he said. “I think that our society is compassionate and donations will continue.”

Appraiser Jeff Erickson, who has worked at the Assessor’s Office for five years, coordinated the drive.

He said the office divided into teams, keeping track of the contributions as they progressed.

The winning team received a free pizza lunch.

Erickson, 42, had a personal stake in the effort, since he lived in a car for one winter when he was 20 years old.

“You see it differently from the other side,” he said. “I had nothing for a while,. Now I have something, so it’s my turn to give back.”

Like Baker, Erickson expects contributions to continue after the economy recovers.

“When things are good you have the most so it is a good time to give,” he said. “When times are bad, a lot of people hang onto things out of self-preservation. When you have things, you should be giving the most.”

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