The Salvation Army in Olympia plans to close its overnight homeless shelter next month and reopen it in September as a 24-hour facility.
Right now the shelter, on Fifth Avenue and Plum Street in downtown, opens at 6 p.m. and closes at 7 a.m. That means most people sleeping there are on the streets during the day.
“That just puts up an unnecessary barrier to getting one’s life back on track and getting where they want to be,” said Maj. Richard Pease, who leads the local organization. “We’ve had a lot of folks who say ‘It’s a place I can sleep for 30 or 60 days, but not anywhere that’s helping me change my life.’”
The new facility, which will be called the Center of Hope, is meant to provide more stability and help residents find employment or permanent housing, Pease said. It will be a low-barrier shelter with a housing-first philosophy.
In the the past, the shelter had a curfew for residents and required they put most of their money into a savings account, policies that may have kept some beds empty. The new facility will still ban drugs and alcohol but other policies will emphasize personal responsibility, Pease said.
Case managers will connect residents with groups that provide health care, housing and job training. That service could eventually be made available to non-residents, taking some of the pressure off the nearby Providence Community Care Center.
That facility was designed to be a hub for people in need with multiple service providers under one roof. It has consistently attracted large crowds since it opened last year.
As part of its transformation, the Salvation Army’s shelter will undergo a $150,000 renovation. The men’s dormitory will be turned into cubicle-style living spaces with secure storage for personal belongings. Bathrooms will be upgraded with more showers and more laundry facilities will be added.
The capacity — space for 24 men and 16 women — will not change.
The shelter will close for construction on July 16. Pease said staff will help people staying there now find a place to stay during the closure. One possibility, he said, is for the organization to apply to open a homeless camp on its Fifth Avenue property under the city’s new ordinance on homeless camps.
The Salvation Army’s meal service and other programs will continue throughout the summer.