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.
Providence ends partnership with Interfaith Works at the Community Care Center.
As we have said many times before, this work is not easy. It takes a toll mentally, emotionally, and politically. In the world of providing for the basic needs of people regardless of their circumstances, it doesn't always look pretty from the outside, and the complex realities of homelessness are often misunderstood and misrepresented.
Without leaning into the painful places and bearing witness to human suffering, one will never get to experience the transformation in yourself, in others, and in our community that comes from taking the time to accept people exactly as they are without judgment and strings attached. We thank Providence for the time, resources, and energy they have spent leaning in with us over these past three and a half years.
Last week Providence decided to terminate the role of Interfaith Works and SideWalk in the CCC partnership and shift the program model to be primarily appointment based. We are deeply saddened by this decision and very concerned about the additional gaps this will create in our already struggling local safety net. We are concerned not only for the people we serve but also for the business community and other downtown organizations that become defacto hygiene and day centers in the absence of dedicated places for people to be.
Further, in today’s vitally important conversation about dismantling structural racism, community policing, and alternatives that center the safety and support of Black and Indigenous people and all people of color, we now must recognize that one of the primary spots for people to come to daily, for the CRU team, law enforcement, Familiar Faces, the clinical providers at the CCC, the hospital discharge planners to find people and to bring them to connect to services will no longer be a tool in our tool belt in the same way -- particularly not for houseless people who are most disconnected from traditional services. People of color make up 35% of people experiencing homelessness in Thurston County. That is nearly twice the rate of the prevalence of people of color in the general population.
Today is a beautiful sunny day -- one of the few we’ve had all year, and all I can think about is winter. It’s mid-July, and we have no plan for a day center, no plan for additional shelter capacity for the cold-weather season for the single adult population, a likely decrease in shelter capacity once construction for the new IW/LIHI shelter and permanent supportive housing development at Martin Way begins, no real plan for providing safe parking alternatives for the dozens of people on Deschutes parkway and Ensign Road…. But you already know this. For everyone in our community interested in this issue please contact Thurston County and the cities of Lacey and Tumwater to share your thoughts on the intersections of race, class, and housing issues. I hope our community will not miss this moment to meaningfully connect the dots that racial justice and housing justice are intrinsically linked.
Today I am grateful for the collective and diverse lived experiences that exist within Interfaith Works because we are resilient, creative, and will do what it takes to continue building a community that allows dedicated space and care to every person regardless of their circumstance! We hope you will join us in that effort to find a place where people who are unsheltered and living in substandard housing can go, can be their full selves without judgment, and can get their basic needs met regardless of their circumstance.
Thank you to all our amazing service partners at the CCC, particularly the core partner group -- Providence clinical mental health team, Valley View, SideWalk, Community Action Council, Behavioral Health Services, and The Olympia Free Clinic. We would also like to thank the office of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, the Olympia City Council and city staff who have put countless time, energy, and resources into making the CCC what it was.
Meg Martin, MSW, CPC
Community Care Center Model
Community Care Center
CLOSES MARCH 17, 2020
On March 13, Providence released the following statement to The Olympian.
"… Providence will continue to offer mental health and medication services downtown, but will screen patients at the door for an appointment. If a guest presents who does have symptoms, we are partnering with Thurston County Public Health to put a plan in place to help meet the need for testing homeless in our community."
Interfaith Works appreciates Providence's desire to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we are highly concerned about the health and safety of unsheltered people in Thurston County and the lack of options available for people who are living with permanent disability and chronic illness and who are at high risk for transmission.
What We are Doing to Keep People Safe
How You Can Help
Make a One-Time or Monthly Donation
Health and Safety First
The health and safety of Interfaith Works shelter guests and our staff is our highest priority. We manage infectious diseases and practice robust sanitation and disinfection of our spaces at all times, but the unknowns of the COVID-19 epidemic demand vigorous precautions.
Our shelter and Community Care Center guests are at the highest risk for severe illness if they become infected. As of today, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the houseless community or the employees who work with them in Thurston County.
We are working daily with County and State Public Health officials to ensure that there is a clear and realistic plan for quarantine and treatment options for people experiencing homelessness if an outbreak occurs among the houseless community in Thurston County.
Our Steps to Keep Our Guests and Staff Safe
Additionally, we are taking the following steps to keep our guests and our staff safe:
Please let us know if you have any questions:
We are sending love and strength to you and your families during this difficult time.
How You Can Help
Make a Donation
#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.
#GivingTuesday is an opportunity for everyone to join the movement and support their community nonprofits doing good work. You can help by making a charitable contribution, donating your time and skills, or doing the legwork of setting up a legacy gift to ensure consistency in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Discover all the ways you can help through our website or one of the links below.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We couldn't do it without you!
Meg Martin, MSW, MHP
Did you know we have a Community Care Center?
While the shelter won’t provide full meals, residents will have access to snacks and foods that can be microwaved, Martin said. Residents will be able to use kitchenettes and lounges fitted with couches.
“They’ll need a place to spend time and relax that isn’t their bed,” Martin said.
Interfaith will also work with Behavioral Health Resources to provide treatment for mental illness. The SideWalk program will work with residents to move them toward permanent housing.
The shelter’s 10 employees and several volunteers spent Saturday giving the space its finishing touches: painting signs on the walls, disinfecting surfaces and setting up beds. During the past month, the church basement has undergone a complete transformation, Martin said. Crews replaced the flooring, widened doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and painted all the walls.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work to get here,” Martin said. “It’s really been a community-building experience for the employees and our volunteers.”
To a large extent, the project had relied on the generosity of the community, she explained. The Thurston County HOME Consortium provided $259,500 in funding, and the project received about $250,000 in private donations. About 75 people volunteered their time to set up the shelter.
“I’m just so grateful for everything everyone has contributed,” Martin said. “I can’t even think about it without wanting to cry.”
Meg Martin, MSW, CPC, is the Executive Director for The Interfaith Works.