Homeless connect project to preview census

Project aims to help record accurate homeless data for annual Thurston County Point-in-Time Census

ahobbs@theolympian.comDecember 6, 2013 

Food, clothing, haircuts, medical service and more will be available at the Thurston County Project Homeless Connect, which runs 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at the Olympia Community Center, 222 Columbia St. NW.

The connection event is intended to raise awareness for the county’s annual Point-in-Time Census. The 2014 PIT Census will occur Jan. 23 during winter’s coldest days and will help Thurston County track its homeless population. Last year, the event was held concurrently with the census.

Organizers hope the earlier date will generate more accurate numbers for next month’s count. For example, some homeless people live in the woods or outlying rural areas and are difficult to reach.

“It’s just a way of trying to engage a population so that all of us service providers can serve them well,” said Bary Hanson, housing manager for Drexel House, which fills all 16 of its beds every day. “We feel like there are people we know we’re not getting. It’s a chance to meet them and bring them on board.”

Drexel House serves as the kickoff location for the annual PIT Census. The original goal of the census was to reduce homelessness 50 percent by July 2015. However, in 2013, the number of homeless had increased about 55 percent.

In 2013, the census tracked 686 total homeless individuals, with 237 unsheltered. In 2006, there were 441 total homeless with 122 unsheltered, according to Thurston County.

Hanson noted that local nonprofit organizations are getting better at coordinating resources for the homeless. Interfaith Works has become a de facto mothership through its Sidewalk Advocacy Center, which coordinates among area churches and service providers to place the homeless.

“At one time, we took cold phone calls,” said Hanson, who has been with Drexel House since it opened in 2007.

Hanson said Interfaith Works is taking the reins in a much-needed leadership role in Thurston County.

“Homelessness is an important issue in this community,” said Danny Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works. “It’s a proxy for how we talk about poverty.”

One local group, Crazy Faith Ministries, feeds hundreds of homeless people weekly at an empty parking lot in downtown Olympia. The charity is at odds with the city over a proposed ordinance that would require permits for any function beyond parking at city-owned lots. The proposal stemmed from complaints by business owners along with concerns about pedestrian safety.

Ben Charles, director of Crazy Faith, told the Olympia City Council on Tuesday that the ordinance will hamper a key element of serving the homeless.

“The best and sometimes the only way to help them,” he said, “is to meet them right where they’re at.”


For single adults, the Sidewalk Advocacy Center is the main intake agency for finding shelter. The center is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday at 1139 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia. Call 360-515-5587 or 360-515-5620.

The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter Olympia, 808 Fifth Ave. SE, will open at 9 p.m. when the temperatures reach 38 degrees or lower. A sign on the door will indicate whether the cold weather shelter is open. Adult males and females are accepted, but not children.

With 24 beds, the Family Support Shelter for Thurston County, 201 Capital Way N., serves women and children. When demand exceeds the supply of beds, the shelter will provide bus passes to shelters in Aberdeen, Shelton, Centralia and even Tacoma. Screening for families is available via the shelter’s hotline at 360-754-9297 ext. 208. After 5 p.m., clients may call 360-628-7343.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com @andyhobbs

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