Group centralizes homeless services

ahobbs@theolympian.comDecember 9, 2013 

Efforts to serve the homeless population in Olympia continue to mature, as the Capital Recovery Center — a new resource hub for service organizations — marks another step forward.

Tenants say the facility, at 1000 Cherry St. SE., feels more professional and functional. Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness — PATH — and the Olympia Downtown Ambassadors occupy one end of the building. In addition to mental health services, homeless people can find food, clothing, hygiene products and vouchers at PATH. The building’s other wing offers areas for cooking, eating, socializing and counseling.

The center revamped its business model into a community mental health agency after the state defunded “clubhouses” in 2012. Under the clubhouse model, the center was more loosely structured and was run by members rather than a board as it is now.

“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, PATH program coordinator, 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.”

An example of this synergistic approach was seen Saturday at Project Homeless Connect. Along with providing food and resources to those who needed them, the event also helped raise awareness for Thurston County’s annual Point in Time Count of Homeless Persons, scheduled for Jan. 23.

Hosted by the city at The Olympia Center, the event provided haircuts to more than 200 homeless people, hot lasagna meals, coats, children’s books, treatment — and even fresh socks. During the event, some people napped with their heads down at a table or slept on mats along the wall.

Each year, Thurston County channels roughly $4.2 million 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 count found 686 total homeless people, 237 of whom were unsheltered. In 2006, there were 441 total homeless people, 122 of them unsheltered. That represents a 55 percent increase despite the county’s original 10-year goal of reducing homelessness by 50 percent by July 2015.

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

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