About 200 people came to St. Michael Catholic Church in Olympia on Monday night, most to say they don’t want a lowbarrier homeless shelter in their neighborhood.
They brought about 50 questions and comments to the people who want to build the shelter at 1011 10th Ave. SE — Interfaith Works, the Capital Recovery Center and others.
“All you need to know is that it should not be at this location,” said Jessica Archer, a resident of the Eastside neighborhood, who reflected many of the comments made.
But there was no time to address the concerns at the forum Monday night, said Heather Moore, executive director of the Capital Recovery Center. Instead, people who signed up for an email list will receive a formal, written response.
Danny Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works, said in an interview that he wasn’t sure when they should expect that email. But he said the 10th Avenue site has not been formally secured for shelter, and Moore said neighbors would be informed before advocates apply to the city of Olympia for a conditional use permit, which is required for such a shelter.
Interfaith Works is moving quickly on a shelter that advocates hope to open Nov. 1. The 40-bed facility would also serve as a day center and consolidate the shelters that rotate among local churches during coldweather months.
Residents asked questions and stated concerns about the shelter’s proximity to schools. St. Michael Catholic School and St. Mike’s Tikes, a preschool, are about a block from the proposed shelter. Madison Elementary School is nearby. Avanti High School and Madison Scenic Park are a few blocks away.
Many people in the crowd were part of the Eastside Neighborhood Association, which has multiple concerns about the project.
People wanted to know about how long people can stay at the shelter, who absorbs the cost for risks and why the shelter was being pursued against opposition. Others expressed dismay that the $400,000 for the shelter was taken from funds that could be used for rapid rehousing of homeless people. Most people did not identify themselves.
Jennifer Fellinger, who lives in the Eastside neighborhood, expressed concern that if anyone is turned away at the shelter for drugs or violence, they will end up in the neighborhood.
Arthur Vaeni, a minister at the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, said that his experience is that homeless shelters aren’t welcome anywhere. He cited the example of Quixote Village, which is locating in an industrial area and still attracted opposition.
“And yet we have a responsibility to put it somewhere,” he said. “… There is no perfect site.”
Moore told the crowd that discussions began in November about such a shelter. In April, Interfaith Works formed a partnership with Capital Recovery Center.
Homeless advocates have struggled to find a location that neighbors don’t oppose. The 10th Avenue site is the third location considered, after two locations in the downtown core met resistance from business and property owners: the MBE building at 406 Water St. SW and the Capital Recovery Center building at 522 Franklin St. SE.
The concept of a lowbarrier shelter is to get people off the streets who won’t or can’t follow the rules of other shelters, such as The Salvation Army, which requires identification and doesn’t accept sex offenders.
Meg Martin, shelter director for Interfaith Works, has said that the shelter would still have rules. Violence, substance abuse and illegal drugs wouldn’t be allowed, and vulnerable adults would be segregated from the rest of the population, Martin said.
Monday’s forum was the second that Interfaith Works has held in the past two weeks. It was during the first forum that advocates revealed that they were considering locating the shelter on 10th Avenue. That raised ire from neighbors, many of whom did not attend the meeting and learned the news from The Olympian. They objected to not being informed first.
Residents of the Eastside Neighborhood Association and downtown business owners have objected to having the shelter in either neighborhood. The neighborhood has been organizing residents, and the business owners gathered 134 signatures against the shelter.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com