Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ho-Ho-Hobo Wreaths Tell Stories

Above: Ahmad, 26, makes a wreath at the Ho-Ho-Hobo holiday wreath stand at the tent city on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street

Ho-Ho-Hobo Wreaths Now Available 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Ho-Ho-Hobo is back! 

This year, the holiday wreath stand organized by Walker Stephens and other volunteers is located in a tent encampment on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street in downtown Olympia.

Wreaths are available for a sliding scale donation starting at $20. Each wreath, some classic, some funky, has a tag with the name of the person who made it. 

Stephens hung out near the stand and explained the concept: $5.00 goes immediately toward the person who made it, $5.00 goes toward the person who sells it, $5.00 goes toward Stephens gas and wreath-making supplies, and the rest goes into a community pot. 

At a meeting held weekly on Wednesdays, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at 115 Legion Way SW, everyone decides as a group what to do with the extra funds. The meeting is open to everyone regardless of previous involvement or housing status.

Each wreath tells a story. Sometimes, the person is there to tell it in their own voice.

Ahmad, 26, has been homeless for a few months. He has lived in Olympia since he was 11.

“I’m a slacker, a freeloader, but I do need help. I’ve had close calls and eye-opening situations,” he says, working on a wreath at the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath making stand.

He allowed Little Hollywood to tell his story because he thought it would help others.

Spelling his name, Ahmad says his name is Muslim.

“I still have yet to find myself in a religion, but I believe in a Father/God/Mother  Nature. We are like gods and nature. I actually think there’s two – not just one.”

“I dabble, I use, I’m a smoker,” he volunteers in the next sentence, his voice soft.

“I was looking for a place to stay between the (Union Gospel) Mission and the Salvation Army...sometimes you don’t have the energy in the cold weather. It’s freezing. If you’re not prepared for it, it can take quite a bit of a toll on you. Someone died over there you know,” he said, pointing to the tent where a woman with health issues lived and died last Sunday.

Like many downtown residents, he discovered the tent encampment to be something of a haven. Like a city, it’s a community. While we spoke, people were coming and going, checking in with each other.

“This kind of stuff (the bustle of activity) is perfect because it shows you a way to hustle with the bare necessities. We can make music. We can use this parking lot for haircuts and things that could get people more income. It generates a lot of ideas. Everyone here has their story. Different walks of life in here, you’d get different responses. I haven’t been here that long….

When asked what happened, Ahmed said he got kicked out of the house by his mom in July. He had a tent, but he gave it away to someone he said needed it more than he did. Ahmad is staying with a friend.

“Then I got in trouble at Walmart for shoplifting. I tried to go back home but my mom and I didn’t agree. She’s at that stage in her life – she’s reaching a time limit, like, if you don’t get certain things done, that’s going to affect other things. The world has changed in the 26 years since I’ve been born, and we see things differently.

“She’s done some things that I’m not very familiar with – she works two jobs, she raised me by herself and I always saw her as a strong woman until I started getting in trouble with the law. She didn’t really know certain things that I was doing, and our communication was affected by it. 

“She never told me that she took out mortgages and loans for her house, so her house went into foreclosure and she’s looking at going out into the streets. This is what she’s experiencing. When the real estate owner took it under his name, we weren’t able to stay there any longer,” Ahmad said, his thoughts drifting away.

“She wants me to be the best I can be,” he added after a long pause.

Little Hollywood asked him if she knows where he is. He said yes, but he hasn’t spoken with her. He has spoken with his sister who brought him clothes.

“That’s what made me rethink where I’m at because they gave me a few things.”

Asked if he knows how to get services, he says he does. He said he is eating and has a place to stay at the camp.

“I just get bored. I’m able to work. I’m able-bodied…. I can pretty much do anything,” he said. 

watched him choose cedar boughs and holly for the wreath and slowly wrap wire around them.

You look like you are creative, I said, and meant it.

“I’ve done landscaping - a little bit of everything. I like working with my hands. I want to go to school and get a degree in engineering, like mechanical engineering. I want to build machines. That would be cool,“ he smiled.

“I believe in fate and right now God or whoever is up there is making it work,” Ahmad said, continuing to make the wreath. “I usually don’t talk so much.” 

Above: Ahmad is almost finished with his wreath.

Holiday Wreath Supplies Needed

Ho-Ho-Hobo is accepting donations of markers, ribbons, materials for name tags, plastic ornaments and miscellaneous, beautiful and funky decorations for decorating wreaths. 

Supplies can be dropped off at the red Ho-Ho-Hobo booth in the tent city on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street. The booth is open from 10:00 a.m. until dark every day except Wednesdays. 

Other wreath vending locations are being planned by organizers. 

On Saturday, a Ho-Ho-Hobo booth did brisk business outside the Capitol Theater during the annual Duck-the-Malls holiday bazaar.

“We earned $450 today outside Duck the Malls - a record! Thats after paying out $180 to our sales team and the folks who made all those wreaths! Stephens reported after the event.

As for the name Ho-Ho-Hobo, the name was created by and for the street community who make the holiday wreaths with love and humor.

Someone working on a wreath burst into laughter when Stephens added, The only people who complain about the name are housed people.  

For a previous story about the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath stand, go to 

Above: Wreaths are available by donation at the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath stand in the tent city at the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Update on Olympia Homelessness Issues

Above: A home in a tent city at State Avenue and Franklin Street on a city owned parking lot in downtown Olympia. In the background is Billy Frank Jr. Place, an apartment complex operated by the Low Income Housing Institute.

Code Blue Declared, Winter Survival Events, Volunteer Training Available

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Calling it a “Code Blue” public health emergency, the Thurston County Public Health Department activated its hazard shelter plan on Tuesday. 

As temperatures dropped into the 20s in the evenings this week, the emergency increased overnight bed capacity for an additional 130 beds.

The shelter network includes the Salvation Army, St. Michael’s Church, Community Youth Services, and the Family Support Center, Union Gospel Mission, the Yelm Community Services Center.

The plan is intended to accommodate people who might not survive in outdoor camps, doorways or cars, and highlights the urgency to address and coordinate Olympia area homelessness issues.

At a tent city on the corner of State and Franklin Street, the Olympia Fire Department has allowed residents on the lot to have contained fires to keep warm and actively educating them about safe fire containment methods.

In November, the city counted approximately 310 individuals sleeping outdoors or in tents in downtown Olympia. There are many more living nearby in wooded areas, under bridges, and along railroad tracks. 

A several hour study session with briefings by area social service providers to the Olympia City Council Tuesday night helped councilmembers get a much clearer picture of what has become a multi-pronged approach to homelessness issues.

Above: An Intercity Transit bus with a Little Creek Casino advertising slogan, Live a Little, lends itself to a bit of irony as it passes by a tent city on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street in downtown Olympia. 

Above: The city is preparing a site with space for 80 tent sites on a parking lot on Olympia Avenue and Franklin Street behind Intercity Transit in downtown Olympia. The site has been marked with 10x10 painted squares and is expected to be available for use within days.

At State Avenue and Franklin Street, a tent city has sprung up on a parking lot adjacent to Billy Frank Jr. Place, a low income housing apartment complex.

Due to a September ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, cities cannot clear homeless camps without giving them someplace to go.

The city is preparing another parking lot nearby as a site with space for 80 tents on Olympia Avenue and Franklin Street behind Intercity Transit. The city is calling this a temporary housing “mitigation” site. 

Wooden pallets will be provided so tents are not on the ground, along with sanitation services and dumpsters for garbage collection.

A modified shipping container, provided by the Port of Olympia, will be available for secure storage of belongings. Plumbing, electrical, and two tiny homes as camp posts will also be available on site.

The Union Gospel Mission will provide support as the camp host.

City manager Steve Hall warned councilmembers that the site will be better than the scene at the State and Franklin Street lot, but it will not be city managed and will not have food drop-off capabilities, cooking tents or medical supplies.

The intent is to have two such sites with the total capacity of 140-160 people.

New Crisis Response Team, Familiar Faces Programs

A new mental health focused crisis response team funded by the recently passed Public Safety levy lid lift will begin work in downtown Olympia. 

Its work is broad-based and will operate with the Olympia Police Department as another community policing option, diverting individuals from jail or hospitals.

The crisis response team will collaborate with a new, grant funded street outreach and system navigation program called the “Familiar Faces” program.

The program will offer personal services to at least 15 to 20 individuals known to need the most care. The individuals, most of whom are street dependent in downtown Olympia, were selected using a vulnerability index by members of the Olympia Police Department’s walking patrol, the Downtown Ambassadors, and social service providers.

The primary goal is to connect individuals to services, divert unwanted behaviors, manage immediate crises, coordinate case support for specific individuals, and improve the safety of their physical space.

Two individuals called “peer navigators” will work with these individuals most of the day and be reachable through evening hours.

The program will be patterned off a successful program in Eugene and operated in collaboration with Catholic Community Services and Recovery International, an organization that has over 25 years of experience.

In the future, a van will be available for use as a citywide mobile crisis service and transport individuals to wherever needed such as shelters and health centers.

The Familiar Faces program is funded through a $106,000 grant that expires in June 2019.

Briefing on the Providence Community Care Center

Providence Community Care Center (PCCC) on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street has been in service for one year. It operates Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and closed on Saturdays.

Their briefing included representatives from the Center, Interfaith Works, SideWalk, Behavioral Health Resources, and the Olympia FREE Clinic.

The PCCC's day room provides clients ongoing connection to shelters and other services, hygiene and hospitality services such as restrooms, showers, laundry, bag check, water, coffee, distribution of hygiene supplies. There are also chairs, tables and couches for respite.

In October, the PCCC saw 2,728 guests, 207 of whom were new.

Of the total number seen, 115 were enrolled in coordinated entry, 161 sought mental health services and 62 individuals sought physical health services. The building facilities provided 803 showers, 258 loads of laundry, and 1,160 bags were checked. Twenty-nine individuals found housing or housing placements.

The building sees an average of 101 guests per day, but staff said that number is likely to go up as the weather gets colder. The Center is not intended to be a day warming shelter.

It was anticipated that the Center would be funded for ten years, but a representative of the Providence Foundation said they could fund it for only three or four more years.

The Providence St. Peter Foundation is funding the deficits of the Center including the building lease and operating expenses, which is approximately $300,000 per year or $25,000 per month.   

Interfaith Works

Meg Martin of Interfaith Works gave a report on the day warming shelter in operation at First Christian Church on Franklin Street.

Three support staff and one floor manager is onsite six days a week, who facilitate crisis management, hygiene and hospitality services and connection to services. 

It is being funded in 2018 by the City of Olympia, City of Tumwater, Thurston County, private funding, and Interfaith Works.

Funding in 2019 for the day warming shelter looks much better, Martin said, with Thurston County providing $200,700. There is a $35,300 gap in funding, but Martin says she is very pleased overall and gap funding will be sought in a myriad of ways.

Emergency Housing Ordinance Update

The city recently passed an emergency housing ordinance that allows for the establishment of temporary emergency shelter sites on faith-based, non-profit or government properties, subject to a permit.

Tentative plans for three faith-based sites are underway, said Keith Stahley, City of Olympia community planning and development director. The sites will be co-sponsored by the city and faith communities in which the city will help cover costs and provide technical assistance toward their operations.

Plum Street Tiny Village, Martin Way Permanent Housing Site

Meanwhile, the Plum Street Tiny Village is taking shape and will open in mid to late January at 830 Union St. It will provide space for 40 individuals. Twelve tiny homes have been built and more than a dozen are under construction.

Plans for permanent housing site are also underway at 2828 Martin Way and may open in 2020, said Stahley.

Additionally, the city is providing funding to move two existing shelters to a 24/7 operation: Community Youth Services Rosie’s Place will open its doors to youth during the day, and the Salvation Army is upgrading their building on Plum Street to provide a place for individuals during daytime hours.

Ending the evening on a high note, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones said that he feels the city has “matured” and that there’s a buzz in the community that the city is finally taking on the issue of homelessness.

Tye Gundel, a volunteer social worker with Just Housing, sat in the audience through the evening’s reports. Just Housing distributes food and supplies to encampments in the downtown area and beyond and meets with individuals in need on a regular basis.

Gundel says that the point-in-time count for homeless individuals is known to be 40 to 50 percent higher than those who are actually counted in one 24-hour period each January.

“The biggest piece that’s missing is all the people not fitting into the city’s so-called mitigation camps, so that’s where we’ve been putting our energy - with those who are living in the woods and other places, Gundel said on Thursday. 

“We’re working closely with the city and other social service providers on strategies but there’s a lot of uncertainty. The city is telling us they’re not going to do sweeps unless they have alternative locations. We’re hoping that’s true. We’re also hoping the downtown business community understands and continues to work with everybody,” said Gundel.

Upcoming Events, Volunteer Opportunities

Just Housing is offering an opportunity to learn more about encampments at an Encampment Support Workshop on Saturday, December 8, 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at United Churches of Olympia, 110 11th Avenue SE, Olympia. 

Organizers will discuss why encampments exist, the challenges of residents and their neighbors, and how community members can get involved in supporting the survival of unhoused community members. For more information, go to

A Winter Survival Supply Drive is being held Saturday, December 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at United Churches of Olympia at 110 11th Avenue SE, Olympia. Survival supplies will be distributed to those living unsheltered in Olympia. Blankets, tents, tarps, sleeping bags, handwarmers, gloves, jackets, socks, hats, batteries, camp supplies pallets, flashlights and baby wipes are most appreciated. Monetary donations can be made at

The next work party at the Plum Street Tiny Home Village is scheduled for December 15 at 830 Union Street SE, Olympia. For more information, email and put Plum Street Tiny Home Village in the subject line. Assistance will be provided to those with little to no construction or painting experience.

Interfaith Works and Sidewalk conduct regular trainings on how to volunteer with the homeless. For more information, go to Interfaith Works at or call (360) 915-7306. The emergency shelter hotline is 1 (844) 629-7373.

For updates about homelessness issues from the City of Olympia, go to

For more information and photos of the Plum Street Tiny Village, the Martin Way permanent housing site, homelessness issues, downtown Olympia, Just Housing and other area social services providers, go to Little Hollywood and type key words into the search button.

Above: Tye Gundel of Just Housing accepts a donation of several bags of large men’s jackets and other warm clothes, socks, and shoes Thursday morning.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Olympia Menorah Lit for Chanukah

Above: Rabbi Yosef Schtroks of The Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia lit a giant Menorah at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia Sunday night. It will be displayed at the park the entire week of Chanukah, December 2 through December 10.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

“The message of Chanukah is the message of light. The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference,” said Rabbi Yosef Schtroks of The Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia.

Remembering the loss of 11 people killed at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue in late October, a giant Menorah was lit for Chanukah at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia Sunday night.

Rabbi Schtroks said that the gathering “showed that spirits would not be dampened by those who wish to bring more darkness to the world.”  

“Upon reflection of these current events and the holiday of Chanukah, I was reminded of the message taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe of saintly memory.

“The Hebrew word Chanukah has multiple meanings. One of the definitions shows how Chanukah comes from the Hebrew root word Chinuch, which translates as “education.”

“The Chanukah story is very much about education….Jewish children were risking their lives to study Torah using the Dreidel to fool the guards who sought to enforce the ban on Torah study….In the wonderful free country that we live in, let us not forget the critical nature of education. More than information, education should also remind us of a higher purpose in life, in fact, a divine purpose in life.

“In this regard, each and every one of us can touch our sphere of influence. We can discuss this - parents with our children, and the rest of us with our colleagues, friends, and family. What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to be a refined human being? What does it mean to be a divine human being?

“The wisdom of the Torah and the guidelines in the seven universal laws given to Noah remind us to look out for others, to value human life and to use every opportunity to bring more peace into the world, whether in the spiritual sense or in the plain and simple.

“Let’s resolve to make our inner Menorah shine so bright this year that it illuminates our actions and every aspect of our lives with the notion of a higher purpose,” said Rabbi Schtroks.

The local Chabad group is a branch of the global Chabad-Lubavitch movement which has about 1,800 Jewish centers across North America, including the Pittsburgh Tree of Life, and over 20 in Washington State.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia, a non-membership based group of approximately 1,500 individuals, has been a Jewish resource and Synagogue in Olympia since 2007. 

The group has displayed the giant Menorah at Sylvester Park since 2008.

Above: A first-ever gelt drop of chocolates by the Olympia Fire Department added to the evening’s festivities.

Upcoming Events

First Annual Yelm Chanukah Celebration and Menorah Lighting, Yelm City Park, December 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Menorah Lighting and Chanukah Celebration, Red Square, The Evergreen State College, December 5 at 1:15p.m.

For more information, contact Rabbi Yosef Schtroks, Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia, 1770 Barnes Blvd. SW Tumwater, WA 98512,, and at The Evergreen State College, go to

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Olympia Tiny Home Village Takes Shape

Above: City of Olympia Councilmember Clark Gilman, left, and Scott Bishop, in green vest, lead a team in positioning a side wall for a tiny house at the new Plum Street Village for the homeless on Saturday. Yul Gamboa, a social worker with Molina Healthcare, is in the blue shirt. 

Housing rights are human rights...this is direct action. Where is our morality if we don't help?” - Yul Gamboa

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Like an old-fashioned barn raising party, about 65 volunteers came together to get a lot done on Saturday.

The task at hand was to build tiny homes with porches and a community kitchen and meeting space for 40 homeless individuals at the new Plum Street Village in Olympia.

It is called the Plum Street Village because it is located at 830 Union Avenue SE near the intersection of Union and Plum Street, adjacent to the Yashiro Japanese Garden.

At least six of the tiny homes will have ramps and be accessible in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.

On November 27, the City of Olympia approved funding and leasing agreements with LIHI to operate the village, which is expected to open in January 2019.

While living at the village, residents will meet with LIHI case managers to obtain permanent housing, health care, employment, treatment, education, and other services.

To learn more about the project, the city is holding a public meeting on Thursday, December 6, 6:00 p.m., Room A, at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW.

Above: Shane Oprescu of Olympia operates a chop saw at the Plum Street Village work party on Saturday. She was responsible for creating 60 sections of wood, each 14 ½ inches long, to be used as support pieces under the community kitchen and meeting space, seen taking shape behind her.

Volunteers came from all over: Joint Base Lewis McChord, the Veterans Administration, local schools, churches, the Lions Club, and local nonprofits. Others were simply individuals who read about the opportunity to help.

Carpentry and painting were new experiences for some, but there were plenty of coaches on hand to show volunteers what to do. 

Shannon Noel, Tiny House Village painting director for LIHI, demonstrated painting techniques.

“All the paint we are using is donated,” Noel told Little Hollywood. “We take all the random exterior paints that people have donated and create new palettes. The colors are rich. Some tiny houses come pre-painted, but we have a say in how they are painted here,” she said.

Luke Reynolds, Tiny House Village Essential Needs Coordinator for LIHI, supervised the day’s activities. Two carpenters with ANEW, an apprenticeship and non-traditional employment program, led the work parties, ensured area safety and provided volunteers with structured assignments.

Several Olympia city councilmembers participated with the effort. In the morning, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones helped build several porches. Later in the afternoon, councilmembers Lisa Parshley and Jessica Bateman painted.

Councilmember Clark Gilman put his extensive experience as a carpenter to work all day, teaching skills and directing volunteers to do whatever task was needed. Gilman is a member of the South Puget Sound Carpenters Union Local 129.

Some tiny homes for the village are being built off-site. Reynolds said some of the homes are being built by Unitarian Universalist Church members and by pre-apprenticeship program volunteers at Purdy Womens Correctional Facility in Gig Harbor and Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock.

Each tiny house is about 8 x 12 in size and costs about $2,500 in materials to build. Each will have electricity, an overhead light and a heater.

Above: Dennis Urdaneta, a U.S. Army servicemember at Joint Base Lewis McChord, and his son Ayden Urdaneta, 11, straighten out a nail and helped with whatever was needed at the Plum Street Village work party on Saturday.

Yul Gamboa, a social worker with Molina Healthcare, said he has little carpentry skills but came to learn and help with the project.

“Housing rights are human rights - that’s my conviction. Society should make housing available just like insurance. It’s the same thing. If people are living in the streets, that means we’re not doing our work as a society. This is direct action,” said Gamboa.

“Where is our morality if we don’t help? We can all end up here at some point. I’ve been in really bad spots in my life. We want every human to live a life of happiness, no matter what,” he said.

According to LIHI and the Washington State Department of Commerce, there are currently more than 40,000 homeless individuals living in either shelters or out of doors in Washington State. More than 7,000 of these individuals are part of a family with children.

In 2015, LIHI started building tiny house villages as a response to the homeless crisis and as a replacement for tents. There are currently eight tiny house villages in Seattle. These eight villages support over 1,000 residents annually.

For more information about how to sign up for future work parties, sponsor a tiny house, or donate materials, email the Low Income Housing Institute at and put Plum Street Village in the subject line or contact staff at (206) 276-3552.

For previous stories about the Plum Street Village, go to Little Hollywood at and type key words in the search button.

Above: A mid-day group photo of volunteers at the Plum Street Village site on Saturday.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Oly on Ice Meets Nutcracker Cast

Above: Cindy Hall, in costume as a large rat from Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker, coaxes a girl out onto the ice at Olympia’s new seasonal ice rink Thursday evening. 

Early Rink Revenues Surpassing Expectations 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

To the delight of children and other skaters, characters from Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker skated in costume to music traditionally associated with the production Thursday evening at Olympia’s new seasonal ice rink, Oly on Ice.

The skaters were the dancers who will perform in The Nutcracker from December 7 – 16 at the Washington Center in downtown Olympia.

Cindy Hall, a Shelton art teacher, plays one of eight large rats who fight the Nutcracker. In costume, she coaxed young skaters onto the ice and chased after others. 

An experienced skater and dancer, Hall danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Her mother was in the Ice Follies and her daughter is also a dancer.

Other dancers in costume included Giovanny Garibay, 15, of Centralia, who plays the lead role of the Nutcracker. The role of Clara is played by Nina Ivanenko, 14, of Lacey. She has been a ballet dancer for eleven years. June Marie Brittain, 17, of Lacey, has danced for fifteen years and plays the Arabian lead.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Mayor Cheryl Selby said the revenues from Oly on Ice has so far surpassed expectations.

Little Hollywood asked Scott River, associate director for the City of Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department, a few questions about the rink’s dedicated budget source, cost, and revenues.

“The projected cost of the rink is $365,000, with an estimated revenue of $151,125 through sponsorships and gate sales. The revenue from the gate helps to offset the expense of installing and operating the rink.

“For the first year, the rink will be subsidized by as much as 60 percent, and there is a goal of reducing that subsidy by 15 percent each year over the next three years. We’ll re-evaluate at that point,” said River.

The 60 percent subsidy for 2018 is covered by a combination of department user fees, general funds and Olympia Metropolitan Park District funds. The revenues generated from the rink are not available for other city priorities.

Asked about the cost of utilities, River said that the only utility of any significance is power. 

“The national average (for a rink this size) is $20,000 for a season but we believe that is significantly higher than what our bills will be. Of course, we won’t actually know until the season is over, but we conservatively budgeted towards the national average. Utilities are part of the department budget for this project.”

Oly on Ice opened November 16 and continues until January 6 with cheap skate nights, group rates, and special events.

For past stories about Oly on Ice, go to Little Hollywood at and use the search button to type in key words or go to the city’s ice rink webpage at

Above: Cast members of Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker gathered at Olympia’s new seasonal ice rink Thursday afternoon in downtown Olympia.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Olympia Tiny Home Village for Homeless Approved

Above: The City of Olympia approved the funding of a tiny home village for about 40 homeless individuals at 830 Union Ave SE, Olympia. It is expected to open in mid to late January.

Help Build a Tiny Home Event - December 1

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The City of Olympia has approved funding and leasing agreements for a tiny home village for the homeless at 830 Union Ave SE, Olympia. 

The agreements were approved at the city councils meeting Tuesday evening.

The City of Olympia owns the property and will lease it to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and provide the organization $1,018,326 for the one year operation of the village.

The Plum Street Village is expected to serve a minimum of 40 homeless individuals.

LIHI is a nonprofit developer and operator of over 2,200 units of affordable housing in the Puget Sound region, including ten tiny house villages in Seattle.

The Village will be located behind the Lee Creighton Justice Center (the former Olympia City Hall) and adjacent to the Yashiro Japanese Garden. 

A final site plan must be approved by the city prior to construction and is expected to open in mid to late January. The public will be offered an opportunity to tour the site before it is occupied.

To learn more about the project, the city is holding a public meeting on Thursday, December 6, 6:00 p.m., Room A, at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW.

Representatives of the Low Income Housing Institute will be available to answer questions at the meeting.

The village will accept single adults and couples without children. Each tiny house will be 8’ x 12 in size, insulated with electricity and heat, windows, and a lockable door. The village will also include a security house, a communal kitchen, meeting space, bathrooms, showers, laundry, a case management office and 24/7 staffing. 

LIHI case managers will work with village residents to help them obtain housing, employment, health care, treatment, education, and other services.

LIHI already owns and manages four buildings in Thurston County: Billy Frank Jr. Place, the Fleetwood Apartments, Magnolia Villa and Arbor House.

Beginning in 2019, the City of Olympia will host a public process to determine how the community will respond long-term to the impacts of homelessness. 

The city declared homelessness a public health emergency in July and is involved in a variety of efforts addressing transitional and permanent housing options.

Help Build a Tiny Home

A Tiny Home Build Day sponsored by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) will be held December 1, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Plum Street Village, 830 Union Avenue SE, Olympia. Four tiny homes will be built. 

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) will provide lunch and all equipment, but suggests that if you have carpentry tools, bring them. Assistance will be provided to those with little to no construction or painting experience. 

To sign up, go to or email