Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Planning for Spring

by Janine Unsoeld
Above: Washington State Department of Enterprise Services gardeners Kevin Battin, left, and Dan Kirschner were busy today planting tulips outside the Water Street public restrooms in downtown Olympia. The tulips "Magmatism" were planted in the center and "Lava" were planted along the border. The colors of red, orange, and red with yellow will be eagerly anticipated by all!

Doing Something About Homelessness

Above: The Smith Building, across from the former Olympia city hall, is served by Intercity Transit buses #60 and #64 on 8th Avenue.
by Janine Unsoeld

The Family Support Center of South Sound is rehabilitating the Smith Building located at 837 7th Avenue SE from a vacant office building to six emergency shelter and seven permanent affordable housing units for families with children.

The building was formerly owned and occupied by the City of Olympia. The improvements will include remodeling the interior of the building to include the units and onsite social supportive services.

Heavy equipment operators and construction workers were already well under way during today's groundbreaking and had to pause while dozens of local elected officials and supporters held a ceremony today that didn't actually involve the use of their ceremonial golden shovels.

The Family Support Center will be holding a local "Extreme Makeover" type contest for the design of the new rooms, said Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center, and residents are expected to be able to move in by April 1st.

The current family support shelter is located at First Christian Church. Currently, 26 individuals, including at least 13 babies, are staying at the temporary shelter offered by First Christian Church, said Slaughter,"...and because of First Christian Church, they have a place to stay tonight."

Glenn Wells, architect for the shelter, described his passion for the project after seeing the Will Smith movie, "In Pursuit of Happiness."

Olympia city councilmembers Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, Mayor Pro-Tem Nathaniel Jones, Julie Hankins, Jim Cooper, and councilmember elect Cheryl Selby, were present at the ceremony.

The shelter will serve homeless and low income families with children under age 18, and will not serve single men or women. The majority of children served by the Family Support Center are under five years of age. Management will be on-site to respond to any issues that may arise.

The cost of the project is $1.9 million dollars, funded through grants from local, state, and federal sources including the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, the City of Olympia, Thurston County, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The City of Olympia sold the property and building to the Family Support Center through a competitive grant process for $1 in 2011. If the building stops being used for the purpose of a shelter, ownership reverts back to the city.

Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum gave a few remarks explaining how the community got to this point, saying that, "Today, we are both acknowledging homelessness and doing something about it. Two years ago, we could have simply ignored that we were sitting on a seriously deteriorating building, but we didn't. Instead, we are putting it to use....The Smith Building...in its new use, will provide significant public benefit by giving homeless children and their families a safe place to sleep and pull their lives back together...."

The Family Support Center is encouraging the community to help fund the project with an opportunity to buy a personalized brick for $100. Bricks will be used to pave the entrance to the new shelter.

Coffee for the morning's ceremony was provided by next door neighbor Casa Mia restaurant, and pastries were provided by the Bread Peddler.

For more information about the Family Support Center, the new Family Shelter and Affordable Housing Project, or buying a brick, contact the Center at www.fscss.org or (360) 754-9297.

Above: Celebrants paused for a photo at this morning's groundbreaking ceremony of the Family Support Center's new family shelter at 837 7th Avenue SE, Olympia.