Spread homeless shelters more fairly around the city

OlympiaMarch 19, 2014 

In Olympia, the term NIMBY is a stone that is easily cast by those who intend to never have a shelter located near them. The Olympian recently used it in an editorial, castigating those NIMBYs (including the Eastside Neighborhood) who did not want People’s House to locate near them.

Conveniently, there is no mention that People’s House would have become the fifth homeless shelter to locate in the Eastside neighborhood. Letter writers from various social service agencies or religious affiliations similarly use the term, in letters smugly written from neighborhoods that will never be considered for shelter locations.

The non-NIMBY residents of these neighborhoods quickly point out all the practical reasons why a shelter should not be located anywhere near them. (Try to find a shelter in a neighborhood south of 13th Street in Olympia or west of Capital Lake.)

What is ignored is the number of homeless shelters active or under construction that are located in or near the Eastside neighborhood — just east of Plum Street. We are the only Thurston County neighborhood that could host a shelter crawl, visiting four shelters in a seven-block walk.

I applaud The Olympian’s call for coming up with a better way of locating shelters. Shelters are needed. But concentrating them in one residential neighborhood is not appropriate.

I hope the process suggested by The Olympian will encourage other neighborhoods to do their share as well, and I hope our social services and religious leadership will challenge them to do so.

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