After thirty-five years of serving the poor, homeless, and marginalized people of Thurston County, Bread & Roses (B&R) will be closing its doors. B&R has served the community in many different ways since its founding in 1982 by volunteers from the Catholic Worker tradition. The original house on 8th Ave has been the heart of the organization since the beginning, and along with the duplex next door, which was added in 1987, has provided shelter, respite, and a welcoming home for hundreds of people through the years.
B&R is mostly remembered for the large soup kitchen and drop-in center that operated on Cherry Street until 2003, where many dedicated volunteers cooked and shared meals with those living on the streets.
Other B&R programs addressed a variety of emergent community needs. The Devoe Street Men’s Shelter, a fifty-five-bed overnight shelter, provided emergency shelter for vulnerable homeless men until the Drexel House opened on that site with permanent and transitional apartments. The Voice of Olympia street newspaper published articles, poetry and art by and for houseless people for several years. The B&R Advocacy Center connected homeless individuals with volunteer advocates to increase access to resources and housing—similar work is done today by SideWalk, the Capital Recovery Center’s PATH program, the Navigator Team at Interfaith Works, and others.
Bread & Roses played an important role in the creation and/or ongoing support of several other organizations and programs, including our community’s first syringe exchange, emergency winter overnight shelters, Partners in Prevention Education, Camp Quixote, SideWalk, EGYHOP, and Food Not Bombs, among others.
Bread & Roses’ prophetic stand for the dignity, the humanity, and the rights to inclusion for the most vulnerable members of our community is where some of its greatest impacts can be found. Radical changes in the local social service industry, including the low barrier and Housing First movements as well as the recent shift to vulnerability-based admission for housing programs, largely trace their roots to Bread & Roses’ advocacy for the “least among us”.
We’ve had a long run and we are proud of our accomplishments. We are particularly pleased that the houses on 8th Ave will pass to Homes First for continued use as affordable housing for our low income neighbors.