Innovative Shelter Solution
OLYMPIA – Funding has been secured for purchase and development of a half-acre lot on Olympia’s eastern edge that will serve as a temporary homeless shelter and evolve to more broadly serve Thurston County’s unhoused residents.
Just as it appeared that Interfaith Works would have to turn out the 23 people we’ve been caring for on the site of the organization’s future permanent shelter and supportive housing building at 2828 Martin Way, a new plan has come together. Partners in the $1.7 million plan include Thurston County, the Washington State Department of Commerce, the City of Olympia, The United Way of Thurston County, First United Methodist Church and a private donor-lender.
Since April, the City of Olympia has allowed Interfaith Works to use an empty former podiatry and dental office at 2828 Martin Way as an overflow shelter to accommodate social distancing at our crowded downtown shelter guests after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We will have to move next week to make way for construction to start on a multi-story building built by the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and staffed by Interfaith Works. It will have 65 apartments above a new 60-bed shelter facility.
There are multiple moving parts to this complex plan involving three sites, building demolition, two construction projects and relocating our shelter guests twice,” said Andrew Rayment, president of the Interfaith Works Board of Directors. “Sometimes miracles do occur. We are incredibly grateful to all of the partners who helped make this happen.”
3444 Martin Way
The plan calls for purchasing a lot at 3444 Martin Way and erecting a 5,250-square-foot Sprung Structure to serve as a temporary shelter. A number of American and Canadian cities are using these heavy-duty modular structures to shelter unhoused people. The new structure is expected to be ready for occupancy by mid-January/early February 2021. Until then, the people who had been sheltered at 2828 Martin Way will be temporarily housed at First United Methodist Church of Olympia.
First United Methodist Church of Olympia
“The congregation of First United Methodist Church of Olympia is thrilled to partner with Interfaith Works and support the vital work they are doing in our community,” said the Rev. Amanda Nicol, Associate Pastor. "Our Christian faith compels us to love God by seeking justice, kindness and dignity for the most vulnerable among us. The pandemic has left our building profoundly underutilized, so we feel blessed to offer this act of hospitality to our unsheltered neighbors.”
Keylee Marineau, Thurston County Homeless and Affordable Housing Coordinator, noted that Thurston County has seen a dramatic loss of shelter bed capacity over the past year.
"It’s no secret that we have hundreds of unsheltered people on our streets and in wooded areas with no options to get inside as winter approaches," Marineau said. "Any addition of 24/7 shelter beds to our system is a major win.”
When the new temporary shelter opens, it will have 38 socially-distanced beds, adding to the overall capacity to the system. Shelter residents will continue to receive two meals a day, 24- hour hygiene services, and round-the-clock support from highly trained and experienced Interfaith Works employees. The modular structure model creates a high degree of control over the site layout, allowing for a thoughtful planning process designed to minimize impacts on neighboring businesses and residents
2828 Martin Way
Interfaith Works and LIHI expect to break ground in December on the five-story building that will provide a new homeless shelter and supportive housing apartments at 2828 Martin Way. Once the new building is ready for occupancy, the people to be housed in the temporary shelter and those in a second Interfaith Works shelter now located at Olympia’s First Christian Church will move in. When that move is complete, the modular building at 3444 Martin Way will convert into day shelter and a hygiene center. Eventually the private donor who helped with the property purchase hopes it will be possible to build low-income housing units there as well.
Interfaith Works Executive Director Meg Martin was quick to praise the Interfaith Board and funding partners for their willingness to embrace the complex project.
“At a time when the COVID-19 crisis has made all of our lives harder, this community has come together with a pragmatic, generous and heart-strong plan to help our most vulnerable residents,” Martin said. “It’s remarkable, but not surprising. This effort proves that Thurston County is home to some of the most caring, innovative, and courageous people in the world.”
Q&A for Neighbors
More information about the temporary relocation to the First United Methodist Church can be found online as well as any links to future neighbor meetings as they arise.
More details and updates about the 3444 Martin Way development will be posted on our website in the next few weeks.
Meg Martin, LICSW, CPC, is the Executive Director for The Interfaith Works.