As a downtown business owner, I can cite a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about downtown Olympia. There are many people working hard to assess and find solutions that will have a big effect on making downtown accessible to all users.
I think one of the reasons people are so critical of our beautiful downtown is that being here is a challenging experience. It harkens back to a different time, when you were asked to look each other in the eye and say, “Good morning.”
It requires a level of presence that people today find uncomfortable. They much prefer the ease of online shopping with chain restaurant predictability.
My number one source of hope is The People’s House, which will give the police and social service agencies a starting point for helping move people off the streets and into drug treatment and mental health and housing programs.
We Olympians must take pride in our humanitarian values. We all want health and safety for our citizens, and that work begins with the most vulnerable among us. Having an accessible shelter downtown is going to be an incredible learning experience for us all in understanding how to meet the needs of everyone who uses downtown.
The most important thing we can do as a community, for our community, is to show up and support downtown in whatever way we can. Tell positive stories about downtown. Show the people you meet respect. Say, “Good morning.”