A Regional Crisis
Homelessness is the most significant and urgent issue of public concern facing Olympia. In recent years, our community has seen increased homelessness. Although homelessness is most visible within the urban hub of downtown, this issue affects all of Thurston County.
In July 2018, the Olympia City Council approved an ordinance that declared a state of emergency related to homelessness. Doing so enables the City of Olympia to more expeditiously respond to the needs of the community.
In 2019, the City is engaging the Olympia community and collaborating with regional partners in the development of a Homeless Response Plan. The Plan will include short, medium and long term actions to address needs for: 1) individuals experiencing homelessness, 2) a safe community, and 3) public resources.
What is the City Doing to Address Homelessness?
Finding lasting solutions to homelessness in our community will be a long-term process. Here are a few of the first steps the City has taken:
Homeless Response Coordinator
The City hired a new Homeless Response Coordinator in April 2018. The position was made possible through a City and Faith Community Partnership in which the Evergreen Christian Community is donating $100,000 a year over three years to support the coordinator post.
Adoption of Emergency Housing Ordinance
City Council passed a land use regulation that allows faith based, non-profit and government organizations to site emergency housing facilities on their property subject to a permit. View the ordinance...
City & Faith Community Pilot Partnership
The City is providing funding and partnering with a work group of several local faith organizations to support the establishment and management of temporary tiny house and transitional shelter facilities on church property. Learn more...
Shelter System Support
The City is providing funding to two existing shelters so that they may move to 24/7 operations.
- In addition to providing overnight shelter, Community Youth Services (CYS) Rosie’s Place will open its doors to youth during the day.
- In addition to increasing the number of overnight shelter beds, the Salvation Army will upgrade their building to provide a safe place for individuals during daytime hours.
Plum Street Tiny House Village
The City of Olympia is leasing property and providing funding to the Low Income Housing Institute for the operation of a tiny house village near Plum Street near Plum St. and Union Ave. This location will provide approximately forty of Olympia’s most vulnerable unhoused residents a safe and secure place while transitioning to permanent housing.
The Plum Street Tiny House Village will be an integral aspect of the housing continuum and will connect residents to necessary services that will positively impact the community.
Creation of Downtown Mitigation Site
The City-owned parking lot at Olympia and Franklin has been identified as the most viable location for a temporary “mitigation site.” This site will include:
- Basic hygiene services
- Limited site management: code of conduct, on-site host(s)
- Orderly setup and safety protocols
The transition site is not a permanent end state. It is the first step to manage a growing, unsustainable and immediate situation in Downtown. It will facilitate safety, dignity, and public health for all Downtown residents. It will also enable improved enforcement of camping and behaviors in the Downtown core and other areas.
Expanding Home Opportunities
Growing homelessness along the west coast strongly correlates to the lack of housing supply and subsequent rising costs. Addressing the upstream factors causing the rise in homelessness are also a top priority for the City.
- Home Fund: Olympia’s recently passed Home Fund will play an important role over the long term in providing housing with supportive services for those most in need.
- Missing Middle Code Changes: The City Council adopted an ordinance in November 2018, that supports housing affordability for households across all income levels - a key community vision in Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan. Missing Middle Housing refers to a range of housing types that can provide more than one housing unit per lot in a way that is compatible in scale with single-family homes.
Contact Homeless Response staff at 360.753.8231 or HomelessResponse@ci.olympia.wa.us