What’s the Story
Thurston County’s annual Point in Time count in 2019 identified 800 individuals currently experiencing homelessness, including 394 people unsheltered, meaning they slept outside, in a car or another place not meant for human habitation the night before. While the 2019 data appears to reflect a reduction in individuals experiencing homelessness, not everyone experiencing homelessness is able to be contacted or chooses to participate. Thurston County believes the number of people who are unsheltered is probably more like 800-1,000 individuals, bringing the total number of homeless individuals closer to 1,600-1,800. The overall trend shows that homelessness continues to increase. A significant reason is a continuing lack of affordable and permanent housing solutions.
Coordinated Entry Connects People to Services
Through a system called Coordinated Entry, individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness are connected to the appropriate tailored housing and services they need. Depending on an individual or family’s needs and what resources or housing options are available, that process can take anywhere from a week to several years.
Since January 2019, Approximately 30% of Coordinated Entry Enrollees Move into Permanent Housing
Additionally, the full impact of Covid-19 on individuals and families needing to seek out assistance through Coordinated Entry won’t be seen until later, as we better understand the extent of job and housing losses from the economic crisis.
Despite 30% of enrollees in Coordinated Entry having been placed into permanent housing since January 2019, the number of individuals in the system is up slightly in 2020 and may continue to grow. A lack of permanent supportive options prevents many chronically homeless individuals from being placed into housing.
Plum Street Village Provides Shelter for 64 Individuals Since Opening in February 2019
Thurston County’s Homeless Crisis Response System is severely strained; there are not enough shelter beds or housing units, coupled with other significant gaps in critical services. Until more permanent housing is available, Olympia has sought more innovative approaches to providing individuals temporary shelter.
Since opening in February 2019, over 64 individuals have received temporary shelter at Plum Street Village Tiny House Village. Twenty-nine tiny houses provide stable, temporary shelter for up to 40 individuals or couples without children. The City of Olympia is leasing the village site to the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and providing funding for its operation. As part of the program, LIHI case managers connect residents with services to help them to stabilize and work toward self-sufficiency, with the goal of placing them in permanent housing. Approximately 30% of Plum Street Village residents have moved into permanent housing.
Faith Communities Host up to 20 Individuals in Tiny Homes
Since the opening of Plum Street Village, two more emergency temporary housing sites have been established by local Faith Communities in partnership with the City. Hope Village at Westminster Presbyterian Church hosts eight tiny houses serving 8-10 individuals, and New Hope Community at First Christian Church hosts six tiny shelter structures serving 10 individuals. The City will continue to dedicate funding to seeking out and helping support other faith communities who want to host temporary emergency housing, shelter, or other homeless related services like safe parking.