Monday, July 16, 2018

Olympia Homeless Lose 90 Beds

Above: Conditions in homeless encampments present serious sanitation issues which are dangerous to human health.

Olympia Union Gospel Overnight Shelter Closes for Repairs

Salvation Army Overnight Shelter Closed For Remodel – Will Reopen as a 24/7 Facility

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood 

The county supply of available emergency shelter beds for the homeless is inadequate to meet demand, and it just got worse. 

Sunday evening was the last night for those who usually sleep indoors at the Olympia Union Gospel Mission.

On Monday, the Olympia Union Gospel Mission at 413 Franklin Street closed down its sleeping accommodations. They will remain closed for four to six weeks for major repairs and maintenance. 

During the day, the Mission will continue to be open and serve hot meals.

Since November, 2017, it has provided space for at least 50 individuals in its dining room area, sleeping on mats with sleeping bags provided by the Mission.

The number of beds available to unsheltered individuals is now down by at least 90, which includes the recent loss of 40 beds due to the closure of Salvation Army’s shelter at 805 Fifth Avenue.

Both closures are temporary, but for those living out of doors, every unsheltered night puts their health and safety at greater risk.

When the Thurston County Point in Time Homeless Count was conducted in January, there were only 386 transitional housing and emergency beds plus 54 hazardous cold weather beds available on a given night.

The closure of 90 beds represents a 37 percent loss of shelter capacity.

There are six other area emergency shelters, including the Interfaith Emergency Overnight Shelter at First Christian Church in downtown Olympia. It has 42 beds and is full every evening. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and clients must leave in the early morning.

Their shelter wait list is based on vulnerability, defined as those who are over 50 years of age, living with a physical or mental disability, and people with chronic health conditions. When a permanent bed becomes available in the shelter, people at the top of the waitlist are prioritized. Each night, a limited number of “one night stay” beds are available and are given out through a lottery.

Salvation Army

In an extreme makeover, the Salvation Army in Thurston County is revamping its facility at 805 Fifth Avenue. It will be closed until September. When it reopens, it will be a 24/7 low barrier facility.

Before it closed, the shelter had 24 beds for men and 16 beds for women. It is expected that they will keep the same number of available beds. It also served as a cold weather shelter from November to April.

When complete, the remodel is expected to relieve the pressure from the downtown Providence Community Care Center, which has become a de facto hub for street dependent individuals with nowhere else to go.

Providence Community Care Center

The Providence Community Care Center at 225 State Street in downtown Olympia sees an average of 100 to 150 clients a day. In the winter, the number is near 200.

Managing the facility as a day center has taken them away from its mission, said Angela Maki, public information officer for the Center, on Monday.

“It was never intended to serve as a day center. It was intended to be a clinic for those seeking social services, and while they are seeking services, we have a washer and dryer, showers, toilets, and limited storage facilities.

“These services are there because it takes time to develop a relationship, trust, to guide individuals into services, manage their wounds, get them into housing, and for those able, workforce development,” she said.

It is open daily except Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After 5:00 p.m., individuals stream out to find places to go for the evening. 

For some, it’s the woods. For others, it’s downtown doorways and tent encampments on city streets.

Little Hollywood often writes about homelessness issues, and unsheltered, street dependent, houseless individuals. For more information, go to Little Hollywood and use the search button to type in key words.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Olympia to Declare Homelessness a Public Health Emergency

Above: An encampment on the corner of State and Washington Streets, across from Intercity Transit, on a recent Saturday morning in downtown Olympia. On any given night in Olympia, approximately 130 people can be found sleeping in doorways and on the street within an 81 block area of downtown.

The main causes of homelessness are related to economic and family stability

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The homelessness situation in Olympia has reached crisis proportions.

At its July 17 meeting, the Olympia City Council is expected to present on first and final reading an ordinance declaring homelessness as a public health emergency. 

Doing so will allow the city to move forward on financing and other efforts to tackle the issue.

The ordinance outlines how the experience of being unsheltered is traumatic and endangers public health. Individuals living out of doors are exposed to harmful weather conditions, communicable diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, respiratory illnesses, malnutrition, and violence.

Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma are exacerbated because there is no safe place to properly store medications or syringes.

When a person’s health is continually compromised by unstable conditions, health care services are rarely effective. Inpatient hospitalization or residential drug treatment and mental health care rarely have lasting impacts when the person is returned to a homeless environment.

The cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles have already passed similar resolutions in order to provide expedited emergency services and shelters for unsheltered individuals, families and unaccompanied youth.

Above:  From a parking lot near Intercity Transit on Saturday morning, volunteers with Joyful Hands Ministries make pancakes and other breakfast items to serve street dependent individuals and others in need in downtown Olympia.

Street feed coordinator Dee Hampton said that close to 300 people were fed. “For this time of the month, that is about average. We have seen over the last year or so such an increase in our homeless population,” she said.

“My heart is always overwhelmed by how many of our families love to give donations to help us continue feeding them even though they give a dollar or 50 cents. They give what they have because they are so thankful we are there for them each week. That is a story that I want to share…the thankfulness and love we receive back from our homeless community,” said Hampton.

Olympia, Thurston County Statistics

Anna Schlect, City of Olympia housing program manager, discussed the most recent Thurston County Point in Time homeless census data with Little Hollywood

Each January, Thurston County conducts a point-in-time count to capture the number and characteristics of people living without a home. The census began in 2006.

The 2018 Thurston County Point in Time census conducted in January identified 835 homeless persons. 

The definition of homelessness includes people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and substandard housing.

Of that number, 320 were unsheltered individuals, living out of doors, in cars, under bridges and highway overpasses and other places not meant for human habitation. This number marks a 56 percent increase from 2017.

According to a Point in Time homelessness related survey, the top four reasons for homelessness are job loss and unemployment, eviction and loss of housing, family rejection, and domestic violence.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said they lived in Thurston County before becoming homeless.

Rent Increases

Not all people experiencing homelessness sleep outside. 

“Oftentimes, people blame homeless individuals as though it’s their personal failing that causes their homelessness, said Schlect. 

Looking at the data, homelessness rises and falls with the economy. It shows that homelessness rose to a high point in 2010, which was also the high point of the recession in Washington State, and that it started dropping with the recovery. But in the last couple of years, it started spiking up sharply again, in sync with rent increases.

“In a parallel study called the Assessment of Fair Housing, we did a survey of nearly 1,200 people. Of those who are renters, half said they experienced a rent increase of an average of $100 a month in the past year. So that’s a very significant pressure on low income households,” Schlect said.

Little Hollywood recently met an employed Olympia woman who is paying $925 a month for a poorly insulated, two bedroom apartment on Olympia’s westside. A stable and responsible tenant, she and her pets have enjoyed living there for five years.

Unexpectedly, her landlord recently raised the rent $575, for a total monthly rent of $1,500, starting August 1. She is unable to make that financial leap.

Reflective of the data, her story is not unique.

Next Steps

On July 18, the council’s Finance Committee will present an oral report on estimated costs and funding for the ordinance. That meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. and be held at Olympia City Hall, 601 4th Avenue East.

The ordinance would stay in effect until June 2021, at which time the city council would determine if conditions warrant keeping the public health emergency measures in place.

Little Hollywood often writes about homelessness issues, past Point in Time census events, and unsheltered, street dependent, houseless individuals. For more information, go to Little Hollywood and use the search button to type in key words.

Monday, July 9, 2018

No Pile Driving During Lakefair for Mistake on the Lake

Above: Views on Fifth, better known as the Mistake on the Lake, as seen on Monday from a newly created city owned park on the isthmus on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia. Piling driving at the site will begin on a three story building on the corner of Fourth and Simmons Street. The poetry on the sidewalk is the creation of Olympia poet laureate, Amy Solomon-Minarchi, and others as part of the citys Art in Public Places Program. 

No pile driving planned during Lakefair, July 11 - 15

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Oh, the sweet sound of progress! 

Pile driving sounds like poetry to some ears, but to others, not so much. But pretty soon, there will be plenty of it in downtown Olympia.

Construction will begin on a new, three story building with apartments and structured parking for residents, all part of the conversion of the existing nine story building best known as the Mistake on the Lake at 410 5th Avenue, also known as Views on Fifth.

Piling driving will not occur during Lakefair, however, and less noisy construction activity on both buildings will continue, City of Olympia building official Todd Cunningham told Little Hollywood on Monday.

The 61st annual Lakefair, a community celebration in downtown Olympia on Water Street and Heritage Park, begins Wednesday and ends on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of South Sounders come into downtown Olympia each year to enjoy food, carnival rides, live entertainment, a car show, a parade, and, as the grand finale, a fireworks display. All activities are operated by Capital Lakefair, a nonprofit volunteer organization. For a list of events and activities, go to

“There may also be occasional traffic disruptions as construction equipment stages for off-loading onto the site. The contractor will have appropriate staff on site to monitor and address all construction activity and any concerns related to public safety,” said Cunningham.

In time, two, new three story buildings are expected to be built on site.

“The pile driving is for the new buildings. There may be some additional piles for the existing (building) but that is not the majority of the piles at this time. The owner was very cooperative about this when I asked him about Lakefair and immediately volunteered that he would discontinue pile driving as it would be the right thing to do for the community during this event. He did mention that this is at substantial cost though,” said Cunningham.

Pile driving work will take place between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Above: Pile driving equipment being staged on Monday for the construction of a three story building on Fourth Avenue near Views on Fifth, a nine-story building under redevelopment in downtown Olympia.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mistake on the Lake Project Appealed to State Supreme Court

Above: The downtown Olympia redevelopment project now known as Views on Fifth is being appealed to the state Supreme Court. The building is now in a state of deconstruction prior to redevelopment. Photo taken last week from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Washington State Capitol Campus. 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Local attorney Allen Miller said on Friday that his clients have decided to appeal the redevelopment of the Views on Fifth project to the Washington State Supreme Court. 

The nine story structure in downtown Olympia is best known as the Mistake on the Lake.

“My clients decided to ask the Supreme Court to take direct review. We have a deadline of July 20th to file and serve a pleading entitled, “Statement of Grounds for Direct Review,” Miller told Little Hollywood on Friday. “That pleading will begin to flesh out the issues.”

Miller is representing the Behind the Badge Foundation, former governors Dan Evans, Gary Locke, John Spellman (deceased), and Christine Gregoire, former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, former state senator Karen Fraser, the National Association of Olmsted Parks, and several other individuals and organizations.

Miller says the case involves fundamental and urgent issues of broad public import and which requires prompt and ultimate determination.” 

The Supreme Court has the discretion to either take the case or transfer it to the Division 2 Court of Appeals which sits in Tacoma. A typical Supreme Court case would be decided in 12 to 18 months.

“You can now see the Olympics and Puget Sound through the girders looking north and you can see the Capitol Dome looking south.  The owners are proceeding at their own risk since the court could order them to take the building down should we prevail in the end,” he said.

The mixed use redevelopment project is expected to provide over 140 market rate apartments, a ground floor restaurant, and retail space. Related to the redevelopment, a nearby one story building was demolished and two, new three-story mixed use buildings will be constructed.

The area is located between Fourth and Fifth Avenue, bounded by Sylvester Street and Simmons Street near the present day Heritage Park Fountain on what is called “the isthmus.” The narrow strip of land was created from fill in the early 1900s and is located in a flood zone between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet.

Unrelated to the Views on Fifth project, the city owns two acres on the western part of the isthmus across from Bayview Market. The city purchased the acreage for a park and recently cleared it of vacant buildings and landscaped the area.  

Above: The Washington State Capitol Campus has one of the most extensive and intact Olmsted-designed capitol landscapes in the nation. Eliza Davidson, National Association of Olmsted Parks, presented testimony to a city hearing examiner at a January 9 hearing in Olympia. 

In her testimony, Davidson said that the Views on Fifth project would irrevocably destroy the scenically unique Puget Sound vista which the Olmsted firm sought to highlight and that Olympia was chosen as a permanent exhibit of Landscapes with a Civic Purpose. The National Association of Olmsted Parks and The Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks are two of several appellants in an appeal of the redevelopment case to the state Supreme Court.

For more information and previous stories and photos by Little Hollywood since 2009 about the Mistake on the Lake, (also known as the Capitol Center Building, now Views on Fifth), building owner Ken Brogan, Allen Miller, the isthmus, sea level rise issues, the Downtown Strategy, downtown flooding, king tides and storm surges, go to and type key words into the search engine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Olympia Approves Pathway to Trail System

Above: Charlotte Olson, 92, walks off the Chehalis Western trail to her residence at The Firs, an independent living facility on Lilly Road in Olympia, on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Olympia city council approved the purchase of a pedestrian and bicycle access easement from Ensign Road near The Firs.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Making a dream come true for many seniors, the Olympia city council approved on Tuesday night the purchase of a pedestrian and bicycle access easement near The Firs, an independent living facility on Lilly Road in Olympia.

The city will construct and maintain the pathway which will provide access to and from the Chehalis Western trail system from Ensign Road.  

Installation will require the removal of one tree and some vegetation trimming around a streetlight which will also be installed. 

The project is expected to be completed by September or October.

First reported by Little Hollywood last summer, residents of The Firs had worked for over two years to gain safe access from the edge of the facility’s property to the trail. Many of the residents use canes, walkers, wheelchairs and motorized scooters.

The hazardous connection is from the end of the property’s sidewalk at the end of Ensign Road to a steep, 65 foot dirt path that drops several inches, then dips down into the middle of a drainage ditch, and rises again to meet the trail.

The city had neglected to obtain the right of way when the facility was built in the 1980s and the property owner, Olympia PropCo, LLC, denied the city access.

Negotiations between the City of Olympia and property owners stalled.

Finally, an offer of compensation and a settlement agreement was reached in March. The easement will cost the city $24,000.

Residents of The Firs are thrilled with the news.

Sherman Beverly and Freeman Stickney, along with several other residents, were active in presenting a petition to the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee signed by residents asking the Olympia City Council to take action on the issue.

Beverly and Stickney each served as resident council president and expressed joy upon hearing the news on Wednesday.

Max Rheinhardt, executive director of The Firs, said he is excited for the residents.

“I’m excited that it’s come to fruition,” said Rheinhardt on Wednesday, crediting the efforts of MBK Senior Living, The Firs’ management company. He said the facility will hold a grand opening for the pathway when it is complete.

Above: “It's a nice trail, says Charlotte Olson, 92, as she comes off the Chehalis Western Trail, navigates the steep dirt path, and steps onto the sidewalk at the end of Ensign Road.

Charlotte Olson, 92, was seen walking off the Chehalis Western trail on Wednesday to her residence at The Firs. Olson is excited about the completion of the pathway project. With the assistance of a cane, she takes a half hour walk on the trail nearly every day and enjoys seeing the dogs and bicycles. 

“You gotta keep moving!” she said as she entered The Firs.

Keith Edgerton works across the street from The Firs as the Providence St. Peter Hospital Sustainability Coordinator. He is also the hospital’s employee transportation coordinator as part of its commute trip reduction program.

Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to the residents of The Firs at the time, a neighborhood pathway application to the city had been independently written and submitted in mid-2015 by Edgerton, on behalf of the Woodland Trail Greenway Association.

“We are very excited about this new trail connection to Ensign Road from the Chehalis Western Trail,” said Edgerton.

“We offer incentives for alternative forms of transportation commuters and have bike lockers, bike cages and bike racks located around our campus so we hope this new trail connection will make it easier and more enticing for employees and the public to ride their bike to the hospital. 

“Our hospital is committed to improving the quality of life for our community so we are just as excited for this new ADA accessible access to the trail for all of the retired folks and hope they feel more comfortable accessing the trail safely after the new trail connection is installed. 

“Providence St. Peter Hospital is very appreciative of The Firs ownership for granting an easement to the city of Olympia to allow this trail connection to be built,” said Edgerton.

The Chehalis Western trail system offers 56 miles of paved, uninterrupted trails, allowing access to regional businesses, homes, work, and recreational activities.

To read Little Hollywoods July 31, 2017 story, Seniors Denied Safe Access to Trail System, go to

Port of Olympia Seeks Clearer Vision

Above: The Port of Olympia has launched a new initiative, Vision 2050. A 27 member task force, which includes Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, and Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, above, met for the first time on Tuesday.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Eager for a fresh start after ousting executive director Ed Galligan last month, the Port of Olympia has embarked upon a public outreach initiative called Vision 2050. 

A 27 member task force is charged with helping port staff and consultants interpret public feedback that will help shape how the port will look, feel and function in the years ahead.

Task force members were handpicked by port staff, its project consultant, and Thurston Regional Planning Council staff. They met for the first time Tuesday afternoon at the Lacey branch of South Puget Sound Community College. Eighteen task force members were in attendance, and one called in on speaker phone.

The public process is off to a rocky start. 

Notice for the meeting was sent out at 2:20 p.m. on Monday afternoon only to those who were already on the port commission agenda email list. A press release, social media postings, and links on the Port's website announcing the initiative will be posted Wednesday, said staff.

“While I understand the short notice wasn't ideal, it still fell within the 24-hour notice required for public meetings,” Jennie Foglia-Jones, Port of Olympia communications manager, told Little Hollywood on Tuesday morning.

The port's website for Vision 2050 is and is expected to go live on Wednesday.

No port commissioners were in attendance, but acting executive director Rudy Rudolph was present throughout the meeting. One member of the public was present. 

Vision 2050 Purpose

The meeting agenda included an overview of port functions and financing by Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association.

“We are fundamentally about community control of important assets such as waterfronts, airports and industrial areas,” he said.

Throwing the doors wide open, Johnson said ports have a lot of flexibility in what they choose to do, adding that ports now have the authority to own and operate tourism facilities.

It was Marc Daily, executive director of Thurston Regional Planning Council, who asked about the elephant in the room – port acceptance of controversial cargo such as military cargo and ceramic proppants - and asked whether or not the port has a choice in what it decides to accept.

Johnson walked back his comments saying the port has to abide by certain laws such as the Federal Shipping Act of 1984 which states that terminal operators cannot unreasonably discriminate in the provision of terminal services.

Throughout the two hour meeting, task force representatives asked questions, obviously unclear about their role, what they were being asked to do, and why.

Staff responded that the project’s scope of work was approved by the commissioners. 

While the commissioners adopted its current strategic plan in 2017 and like it, they are open to feedback. Depending on the feedback, the commissioners may go back and revisit the plan, said Foglia-Jones.

“The primary responsibility of the task force is to ensure we design a comprehensive and inclusive engagement process, interpret community input accurately and translate those ideas into a vision and action plan that ensures the Port remains prepared, impactful and sustainable in the years ahead,” she said.

The task force is anticipated to meet approximately five times between June 2018 and August 2019 and will be responsible for presenting a recommended vision plan, with strategies and actions to the commissioners for consideration and adoption.

It is unclear when the group will meet again, but it may be several months or up to a year.

The consultant and his team will interview selected community members, conduct an online survey, offer presentations and forums, and use social media to collect public feedback.

Questions posed will include: 

When you think of the Port today, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

The Port funds operations through multiple business lines. What do you consider priority areas for future revenue growth?

Looking forward, what do you perceive as the Port's most significant barriers to success?

Over the longer term, where do you think the Port should focus direction and/or investment?

Public Involvement

With fifteen minutes to spare in the agenda, task force members were asked to review and endorse the consultant’s proposed public engagement plan.

Helen Wheatley of Olympia holds one of the four public-at-large positions but was unsure of her role and hesitated to endorse the process. She said more time is needed to ensure representational community engagement.

She wondered about the methodology for identifying stakeholders and expressed concern that the group wasn’t being asked to provide input into the study or the outreach methods.

“The actual request for proposals for this project says the Port of Olympia is seeking assistance in the development of a community vision for the Port of Olympia. It also says it would be in alignment with the update to the Port’s Strategic Plan, she said.

Referring to a 2012 citizen survey conducted by the Port of Olympia, she wondered what the port plans to do with the information it gathers about community values and preferences if it is not in alignment with the port’s current strategic plan.

She is requesting that the public make suggestions about organizations that should be on the task force.

“Organizations that should really be on this committee list need to be alerted that this is happening,” she said.

Above: Helen Wheatley, in pink, provides feedback to Thurston Regional Planning Council staff during a meeting of the Port of Olympia Vision 2050 initiative.

Task Force Members

Travis Matheson, Task Force Chair, Vice-Chair, Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee
Stephen Bramwell, WSU Extension/South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI)
Michael Cade, Thurston Economic Development Council
Jeff Choke, Nisqually Indian Tribe
Josh Cummings, Thurston County
Todd Cutts, Olympia Downtown Alliance
Marc Daily, Thurston Regional Planning Council
John Doan, City of Tumwater
Ann Freeman-Manzanares, Intercity Transit
Michael Grayum, City of Yelm
Brian Hardcastle, Tumwater School District
Brad Hooper, North Thurston School District
Teri Pablo, Yelm Community Schools
Ray Peters, Squaxin Island Tribe
Drew Phillips, Public-at-Large
Bryan Reilly, Olympia & Belmore Railroad
Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Rob Rose, International Longshore Workers Union Local #47
Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure at The Evergreen State College
David Schaffert, Thurston Chamber of Commerce
Bill Sloane, Olympia Yacht Club
Keith Stahley, City of Olympia
Shanna Stevenson, Public-at-Large
Shauna Stewart, Experience Olympia & Beyond
Dr. Tim Stokes, South Puget Sound Community College
Rick Walk, City of Lacey
Helen Wheatley, Public-at-Large

For more information about Port of Olympia issues, go to Little Hollywood, and type in keywords.