Homeless families getting a new place to stay

Decades-old Smith Building in downtown Olympia expected to start housing needy families by July 1

ahobbs@theolympian.comApril 14, 2014 

The Smith Building - originally the Olympia Credit Bureau and the former City of Olympia Planning Department building - is shown in downtown Olympia on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer Buy Photo

The Smith Building will reopen this summer as a homeless shelter capable of serving more families in downtown Olympia.

Donations are needed to furnish the building at 837 Seventh Ave. SE.

The Family Support Center of South Sound plans to move in by July 1, said Schelli Slaughter, executive director.

The new 24-hour a day shelter will replace the support center’s overnight-only shelter at First Christian Church, 701 Franklin St. SE.

In addition to six rooms with 28 beds for families with children, the new shelter will include seven low-rent apartment units designed to support 32 more people who qualify based on income.

In addition to being wheelchair-accessible, the new shelter will include laundry and bathing facilities, along with a computer center and a play area. Parenting and garden classes will be offered, and people can enter the building with cards as keys, Slaughter said.

Although the building’s construction is paid for, Slaughter said, more money is needed to buy furnishings such as bunk beds, kitchenware and bath supplies — anything to stock the inside.

To raise money, the center is selling 600 bricks in the entryway. Donors can engrave their names on the bricks for $100, or their business logos for $300. Room sponsorships are available for $5,000 each, and sponsors can create the room’s theme.

“They’ll be able to put the touches in here that make it homey,” Slaughter said.

In 2012, the nonprofit support center bought the Smith Building for $1. Built in 1965, the Smith Building originally housed the Olympia Credit Union. Starting in the mid-1980s, the building was home to the city’s planning and public works departments, which moved in 2011 to the new City Hall building on Fourth Avenue.

Construction costs were estimated at $1.9 million, according to the support center, with funding coming from county and federal sources.

According to the 2013 Thurston County Homeless Census Report, 42 percent of homeless children are estimated to be under age 6. The 2013 census found 277 people in 98 homeless families, with 157 being children under age 17. However, the data exclude families living with friends or other family members.


To learn more about the new shelter, go to the Family Support Center of South Sound’s website at fscss.org.

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

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