The City is working closely with Thurston County to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The County received a $1,000,000 grant from the state of Washington to help protect unhoused individuals and have developed a plan to guide this effort. The plan includes four categories of activities:
- Significantly increase access to hygiene facilities. The City has deployed additional hygiene stations throughout the city and is actively working to site additional facilities. The City anticipates deploying a hygiene facility at the mitigation site that will include showers and restrooms connected to the sewer and water infrastructure.
- Increase shelters to 24/7 and increase shelter space to allow for six feet of separation between shelter beds. The City is assisting by providing access to the medical office building at 2828 Martin Way that the city purchased in 2018. It will be used to expand shelter capacity and will house up to 30 individuals. Interfaith Works will manage the facility. We have also moved the 10 most vulnerable individual with the highest risk factors out of the mitigation site and into a local hotel. We are also looking at options for additional tiny houses and making sure that the tiny houses we have deployed at Plum Street Village and Westminster Presbyterian are filled.
- Provide funding to create additional space for those displaced by 6 foot separation policies. Same as above.
- Identify and staff locations for quarantine and isolation. The county and City are still working on this one.
A Regional Crisis
Homelessness is the most significant and urgent public concern facing our community. The 2018 Point in Time Census counted 835 homeless individuals in the county, marking a 56% increase from 2017. Although homelessness is most visible within the urban hub of downtown Olympia, this issue affects all of Thurston County.
In July 2018, the Olympia City Council declared a state of public health emergency related to homelessness (view ordinance). Doing so enables the City to respond to the needs in the community more quickly.
Homelessness is a complex problem, and a truly effective response will take regional partnerships and the proactive involvement of a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
What is the City Doing to Address Homelessness?
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.
The City cannot fix homelessness. And finding lasting solutions in our community will be a long-term process. However, the City is addressing immediate needs related to homelessness and working on longer-term strategies. Some of the steps we’ve taken include:
Stay Informed, Get Involved & Make a Difference
Although the City made great steps forward, we know the conversation about homelessness in Olympia is far from over. That’s why we've launched a new online tool, Engage Olympia, to make it easier to find out the latest information, get answers to your questions, and share your input – online, anytime.
It’s easy, just go to EngageOlympia.com and create an account. Then visit the Homeless Response project to:
- Get the latest news, rumor control and opportunities to get involved.
- Ask questions about what is happening - They’ll be answered by a real person.
- Share your ideas for addressing homelessness in and support other’s ideas.
- Provide input through a variety of surveys and other tools.
We work better, smarter and stronger with community input. Sign up and engage now!