One Community: Healthy, Safe & Housed

Executive summary

The One Community Plan includes strategies for responding to the immediate homelessness crisis, as well as long term prevention strategies; it aims to help people experiencing homelessness as well as the broader community.

Effectively addressing homelessness requires strong and committed regional partnerships. This will be a dynamic undertaking as we measure our progress and learn and adapt our actions based on what works.

Not everyone will agree with every aspect of this plan. However, the Community Work Group determined this plan to reflect the voice of our community, and a balanced approach comprised of compassion and accountability, both so strongly expressed throughout the process.

In March 2019, the City launched a yearlong planning effort aimed at finding community agreement around how to best respond to the homeless crisis. At the time homelessness in Olympia appeared to be growing dramatically. In the summer of 2018, tents started to appear in Downtown parking lots, growing from 75 in August to over 300 by early October. In January of 2019, Thurston County’s annual homeless census counted 394 unsheltered persons, up from 124 in 2017. Many of these individuals were sleeping in Olympia, in the woods, under bridges, in vehicles and on Downtown streets.

Concerns grew about the safety of the individuals, the impacts on the community and the environment. Community members were pleading with the City to take action, yet people saw the problem and solutions very differently.

In the summer of 2018, the City Council declared a public health emergency. Several emergency actions were taken, including opening a tiny house village and a safe camping site known as the Downtown mitigation site, helping fund an expansion at the local youth shelter and incentivizing faith community partners to host temporary emergency housing. At the same time, the City Council recognized a more planned and coordinated long-term response would be necessary in order to have a lasting and sustainable impact.

To engage the public, the City used a Participatory Leadership approach specifically designed for identifying community-based solutions to incredibly wicked and complex challenges. This approach involved creating a Community Work Group made up of 11 volunteers with different life experiences and perspectives. Their role was to deeply listen to the voices of the community to identify the strategic direction.

This process included hearing from over 1,200 people through 20 different community conversations and two online surveys. Community members engaged in important civic dialogue, face-to-face with one another and across significant differences. The Community Work Group heard from a wide and diverse cross-section of stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness, neighborhood residents, faith leaders, business and property owners, Downtown visitors and employees, and people representing social services, emergency services, hospitals and school organizations. Despite what often seems like a polarizing topic, the process uncovered significant areas of agreement about what needs to be done.

Man at Plum Street Village, Woman holding house keys, Members of Crisis response unit

Focus areas

The One Community Plan is organized around three focus area goals identified as important to the community. Learn more about each, including the specific strategies, potential implementation approaches and what the City is doing by clicking the buttons below.

Community members at Plum Street Village

Actions: What we're doing

The City of Olympia is committed to treating unsheltered people with respect, dignity and compassion and to minimizing harm and trauma as we assist them. We are working to provide safe and legal shelter options, while we manage City property for its intended use and balance the needs of the unsheltered with the impacts on the community.

You can view the list of 2020 City-led actions or learn more about some of our specific projects on each of the focus area web pages above.

Homelessness is bigger than any single jurisdiction or organization. An effective response will require a coordinated regional approach including the State, County, cities, non-profits, faith communities and the private sector.

The One Community Plan was developed through a robust public and stakeholder process and often points to the types of partnership actions our community would like to see. Throughout we heard directly from over 50 partners and potential partner organizations whose voices and opportunities for collaboration are represented.

Partners may be organizations working directly with the City, but often and just as important, they are individuals and organizations doing related work independent of the City. Many of these organizations are already hard at work. As we move forward with implementation and report on our own actions and performance data, the City can highlight actions taken by these partners.

Is your organization implementing something called for in the One Community Plan? Let us know at the email below.

Point in Time census volunteers

Measuring our progress

By following the strategies identified in the One Community Plan, the City and partners are taking essential steps toward our goal of a healthy, safe and housed community. The plan also includes key metrics for each focus area, which will be available on an online dashboard later this year. The dashboard will include both at-a-glance information and more in-depth stories.

The City is committed to collecting data to track and report on progress. Data will also help us continue to learn what’s working and make adjustments to our actions when needed. Click on the “Homelessness Point in Time Count Data Story” under the Featured Links section on this page to learn more about how data from the annual Homelessness Point in Time Count and Coordinated Entry helps us better connect individuals and families to shelter, housing, and services.

Stay informed

City staff are able to present on the One Community Plan and actions to your organization. Email us a request if interested.


One community: Healthy, Safe, Housed