Olympia now has a centralized service hub—specifically for the people who have historically had the least access to services. The Providence Community Care Center, which officially opened on September 13, provides a space for more than ten community partners who are serving the most vulnerable members of Thurston County.
The Center brings a variety of services into one location, including mental and physical health services from Providence St. Peter Hospital, Behavioral Health Resources, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, and the Olympia Free Clinic, plus housing services from SideWalk, and a variety of services from Interfaith Works.
Integrated care for the vulnerable
The Center’s mission, “To provide integrated care to vulnerable people through compassionate service in a safe environment,” is based on harm reduction, a philosophy of meeting people where they are and removing barriers for people who most need these services.
“With harm reduction you take a more relaxed approached,” said TJ LaRocque, Manager of Operations, Behavioral Health Southwest Washington for Providence, and a leader in conceiving of the Community Care Center. “We don’t have any sobriety requirement for any of our services, because sometimes the issues of trauma have to be reduced before you can address the issue of drug use. Sometimes people don’t have the strength to address their drug use before they address their trauma.”
According to LaRocque, the Community Care Center’s focus on harm reduction techniques is in the community’s best interest, as well as in the interest of people who access services there. “It’s so important” LaRocque stated, “that people, if they are going to continue to use drugs, that they are doing it in the safest possible ways, which is totally in line with public health priorities.”
Supportive housing for the vulnerable
SideWalk operates under a similar philosophy. The local housing advocacy nonprofit also has no sobriety requirement, arguing that people who are experiencing homelessness as well as people who are using drugs, more often than not have experienced trauma. In fact, SideWalk specifically targets permanent and temporary supportive housing for the most vulnerable people, using a Vulnerability Index to assess who is the most likely to die on the streets.
“A home is a starting point for addressing the challenges in our lives,” said Phil Owen, Executive Director of SideWalk via email. “People who are vulnerable and experiencing homelessness are strong survivors. They are capable of living healthier, happier lives. A home is what makes this possible. We would never bar a person from services or housing on the basis of drug use, because homes are necessary for wellbeing.”
The Community Care Center is located at 225 State Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98501. For more information, or to make a donation in support of the Providence Community Care Center, go to http://washington.providence.org/clinics/providence-community-care-center/
To get involved with SideWalk, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The next volunteer training is October 10 & 12.
Kit Gertje is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at SideWalk, a local nonprofit working to end homelessness in Thurston County. They graduated from The Evergreen State College in March 2017 with a degree in Communications.