Efforts to serve the homeless population in Olympia continue to mature. The Capital Recovery Center, which is a new resource hub for service organizations, marks another step forward.
The facility feels more professional and functional, according to its tenants. Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) and the Olympia Downtown Ambassadors occupy one end of the building at 1000 Cherry St. SE. In addition to mental health services, homeless people can find food, clothing, hygiene products and vouchers. The building’s other wing offers areas for cooking, eating, socializing and counseling.
The center revamped its business model to a community mental health agency after the state defunded “clubhouses” in 2012. Under the former clubhouse model, the center was more loosely structured, and was run by members rather than a board. The center held an open house Dec. 6 to celebrate its refocused mission.
“Our reach is larger,” said Heather Moore, the center’s executive director. “But I’m always hoping Congress will increase housing and mental health funding.”
Josh Black, program coordinator for PATH, said the center’s “one-stop shop” ability is an asset when referring people to other services.
“You want to build a rapport with the people you’re serving. You want to build trust,” Black said. “We go out and try to meet people where they are.”
One of the best examples of this synergistic approach was found Saturday at Project Homeless Connect. Along with providing food and resources, the event raised awareness for the county’s annual Point-in-Time Census of the homeless population scheduled for Jan. 23.
Hosted by the city at the Olympia Community Center, the connection event linked more than 200 homeless people to haircuts, a hot lasagna meal, coats, children’s books and even treatment - and fresh socks - for their feet. Some people napped with their heads down at a table or slept on mats along the wall.
Thurston County channels about $4.2 million every year toward affordable housing and related services for the homeless and low-income populations. This money is a mix of federal, state and local dollars.
In 2013, the Point-in-Time Census tracked 686 total homeless individuals, with 237 unsheltered. In 2006, there were 441 total homeless with 122 unsheltered, according to Thurston County. That represents a 55 percent increase despite an original goal of reducing homelessness 50 percent by July 2015.
Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869