One Community Plan - About the Process

HUndreds gathered at community meeting about homelessness

The Participatory Leadership Process

In March 2019, the City of Olympia launched a yearlong planning effort aimed at finding community agreement around how to best respond to the homeless crisis. The City chose Participatory Leadership as the model for the public process. These tools and methodologies are specifically designed for identifying community-based solutions to incredibly wicked and complex challenges.

Learning Phase

During this phase participants were asked to consider what does it look like to successfully address homelessness in our community? What’s currently working? What’s not?

Dialogue Phase

During this phase we shared what we had heard and learned during phase one, and dug deeper into the issues. We asked participants to identify 1, 5 and 10 year goals. 

Identify Strategies & Actions

During this phase we focused on two of the hardest issues:

  1. How should we address encampments, and
  2. How to address behaviors that make people feel unsafe.

Despite differences of opinion at each table, participants engaged in a rich, civic dialogue to help the Community Work Group identify a way forward.

While City Council and staff convened the meetings and listened throughout, it was a Community Work Group (CWG) made up of 11 volunteers who guided the process. Their role was to ensure a diverse and inclusive set of perspectives and experiences were represented and fully integrated into the process and the resulting outcomes. After hearing from over 1,200 diverse community members, the Work Group shaped the strategies and potential implementation approaches at the heart of the One Community Plan.

Having a safe place to call home is fundamental to all families’ and individuals’ ability to thrive. Over the past year, we listened as hundreds of you, our fellow Olympians, shared your deep commitment to this goal, your ideas for how to make this vision a reality, and your fears about what can happen if we don’t.

Throughout the development of this plan, we heard your stories. You shared stories of survival and strength, stories of giving and deep empathy and concern, and stories of mourning and loss. Our responsibility was to listen, and not to judge or choose winners and losers, but rather to distill your collective voices into a shared and balanced way forward for addressing homelessness and its impact on our community.

At its core, this plan is about more than homelessness. It is about how as a community we came together, often face-to-face and despite seemingly significant differences, to discover commonly held values and a shared commitment to maintaining the quality of life in Olympia we so deeply care about.

We recognize and honor the many impactful efforts by our community that have made, and continue to make, life-changing differences in the lives of individuals and families. Let us not lose our momentum, but build on our shared experience, and move swiftly to action. Public agencies at every level, residents, businesses, non-profits, philanthropic organizations, and others need to join in this critical work. We know it will not be easy; more difficult conversations will be needed. We know there will be significant challenges and setbacks.

And we know we need to continue to be better at intentionally seeking out the voices of marginalized members of our community. While disproportionately affected by homelessness, they are all too often underrepresented in planning and decision-making. There is more we can do to ensure that everyone feels welcome and respected, and has their voice heard.

This plan is not meant to sit on a shelf, but to be a living document to rally around; a call for bold, strategic, and innovative efforts. All three elements of this plan are meant be acted on simultaneously. We recognize that this will take a tremendous amount of work, and that regional collaboration will be critical to making a real difference.

We are a strong community with exceptional individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations; we don’t walk away from wicked problems, but instead we lean in with compassion, grace, and a desire for transformative change. That is why we so strongly believe that together, we can continue to make a difference.

- Members of the Community Work Group

What We Learned

Below are six key findings that shaped the Community Work Group’s understanding of the issue of homelessness based on what they heard and learned throughout the process and their own knowledge and experience. Read more about each finding in the complete One Community Plan.

  1. Homelessness is a national and regional issue that is felt most acutely at the local level
  2. The homeless population is not homogenous
  3. Causes of homelessness are varied
  4. Housing affordability is a key factor in homelessness
  5. For many the root cause of homelessness can be traced to earlier adverse experiences
  6. Housing stability is key to recovery

What We Heard

The Community Work Group heard from over 1,200 community members through 20 different community conversations and two online surveys. Over 50 different community organizations participated.

Some sessions were open to the public, others were tailored to specific groups such as people experiencing homelessness or Downtown business and property owners. Also widely included were faith community leaders, residents, representatives from social and emergency service agencies, and Downtown employees. This broad range of voices and perspectives were heard and reflected in the outcomes.

Meeting summaries