Helping Hand

Student project focuses on helping unhoused

Posted 12/31/69

For local high school senior Connor Scanlon, helping the unhoused isn’t about checking a box for graduation, it’s about making a genuine connection.

While many may know him as the …

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Helping Hand

Student project focuses on helping unhoused


For local high school senior Connor Scanlon, helping the unhoused isn’t about checking a box for graduation, it’s about making a genuine connection.

While many may know him as the goalscoring talisman and captain of the East Jefferson Rivals boys soccer squad, the 12th-grader has been immersed in aiding the local unhoused population on the Quimper Peninsula.

For his senior project, the Port Townsend High School student has been working at local warming shelters in the area, helping the homeless in any way he can. The student has raised hundreds of dollars and donated a wide variety of essentials like blankets, socks, and dental hygiene products as part of his project.

Sitting down with The Leader last Wednesday, Scanlon talked about his experience and getting to know and hear the stories of some of Port Townsend’s most marginalized people.


Part of Scanlon’s understanding and connection with the unhoused stems from experiences as a youth growing up in town.

“When I was younger, as the town kind of changed, there were a lot more people who started to go through issues,” Scanlon said. “My family was no exception to it; we moved out of our nice house in town and we took a significant money hit.”

Acknowledging that his adolescent struggles weren’t at the level of the daily challenges of transient people, Scanlon did grasp an understanding of the brutal reality of financial hardship in America.

“We went through some times where we were really near rock bottom,” he said. “That kind of gave a me a little bit of a sympathetic view on people that are at a lower level [economically].”

When it came time to pursue his senior culminating project — an annual assignment for Port Townsend seniors to get involved in community service or explore a career — he knew exactly what he was going to do.

“Giving back to the community is just what you do. It seemed natural for when I got to my senior project,” Scanlon said.

Beyond just helping out around the shelter, Scanlon conducted multiple one-on-one interviews with unhoused people in the community to gain a better perspective on their daily lives. He also kept a tally of the most requested items that people would ask for, with socks being the most common ask.


“When people see unhoused people around day to day, they don’t imagine what that person’s entire day looks like,” he said. “A couple of people that I interviewed made it clear that they feel judged everywhere that they go.”

Whether it was meeting a 75-year-old woman desperate for housing but unable to work, or speaking with a man unable to afford medication to treat his mental illness, Scanlon stressed these community members deserve dignity and empathy.

“A lot of the people who have issues with houseless peoples, they see them as lazy. The constant quote you hear is ‘Get a job,’” Scanlon said. “They’re trying their best, and they’re trying to make ends meet and doing the best they can.”

Finding empathy and understanding can start with a conversation.

“For most people, I would say just talk to someone,” he said. “If you go buy them a $5 sandwich, you can go talk to them for 10 or 15 minutes of your day, then your complete view of this one person has changed.”

Another eye-opening aspect of Scanlon’s experience was seeing the diligent efforts of the people and organizations that tackle homelessness on a daily basis.

One of those people Scanlon met was a man with New Life Church in Port Townsend who would meet with transient people around the Peninsula every day to deliver hot meals.

“Not only was it enlightening to work with people that are in that situation, but also people that work for organizations that work with them,” he said.

Scanlon reached out to a number of local businesses and organizations when fund-raising for the unhoused, and was able to raise money and basic necessity goods from Quimper Mercantile Company, Waterfront Pizza, Hadlock Dental Center, Abracadabra, William James Bookseller, and other businesses. He then donated all of the items and funds to the American Legion to provide essentials for unhoused people in the area.

“I don’t think I get a whole lot out of doing this,” Scanlon said. “I feel like I’m helping out, so that’s personally rewarding. But on the flip side when I go home and I lay in my comfy bed, I think about that and how those people have to go hopefully to a home, or barely that.”


Outside of his community work, Scanlon can usually be found on the green grass of a soccer field, pursuing his favorite sport.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but soccer represents so many things in what makes a good character, it’s really a beautiful sport,” he said. “It represents strength and strength of character and sportsmanship and teamwork. The biggest takeaway from growing up in soccer was becoming a leader.”

Starting at the recreational leagues and making his way up to travel soccer and the high school varsity team, he plans to continue his passion into college.

“I committed to Evergreen [State College] in Olympia to play soccer for them,” he said, adding that he plans to study business management.