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Olympia’s homeless face extra hardship with suspension of area services

A perfect storm of suspended services may create additional challenges for Olympia’s homeless population this winter.

Timberland Regional Library management announced in October that the downtown Olympia branch will be closed from late November to early February. The branch is widely known as a safe place for homeless people to stay warm while using the internet, reading quietly and simply resting from the constant need to keep moving. Community organizers are actively looking for interim daytime shelter facilities.

Picture of a homeless encampment underneath 4th ave. bridge in Olympia.The scene under the 4th Ave Bridge last winter – photo by Lindsey Dalthorp

Renovations to the Salvation Army’s main shelter in Olympia are complete but there’s no indication of when the facility will reopen due to money and staffing issues. They are supposed to have their cold weather beds available starting in November, but at best it’s only about 30 beds.

The City Mitigation Site, more commonly referred to as “tent city,” planned to accommodate about 70 people, is grossly overpopulated. Now, according to the City, about 115 people reside there.

The Olympia Union Gospel Mission is at full capacity. So many people are regularly accessing the Mission shelter that they will be in “Code Blue” if there is a weather emergency. No additional space will be available through the Mission this winter.

Area business owners have voiced concerns The Community Care Center building’s old sewer pipes are failing from the heavy use. The Center is currently discussing the issue of hygiene services, but has no plans to change its current system for hosting people.

The bottom line is that Olympia will have more people on the streets this year but fewer shelter beds available. Dozens, if not hundreds of street people may have an even longer, more difficult winter ahead.

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