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.