OLYMPIA - Bread & Roses has put nearly $80,000 in repairs into its shelter for homeless women and its staff house, and the nonprofit organization is ready to show the public what it has done with government help, donations and hundreds of volunteer hours.
The group will hold an open house Saturday, showing the freshly finished floors, the new paint and carpet in the two houses in the 1300 block of Eighth Avenue that serve homeless women.
“The home is welcoming and clean and well-kept and all that,” said Phil Owen, one of the volunteer hosts who live in the staff house next to the shelter with his wife, Meta Hogan, and an AmeriCorps volunteer. “We want to get the word out that we’re back on our game. We’re solid and stable and ready to go.”
It wasn’t always that way. In 2007, a fire badly damaged the living quarters. Though some repairs were made, the staff house was otherwise in serious disrepair. There was moisture damage and rot in the siding, peeling paint and exposed wires. Debris was everywhere.
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“Moldy dishes piled up on the counters and in the sinks, a thin film of black grime covered the walls, the toilets went without cleaning for months at a time and guests residing at the House of Hospitality and the Guesthouse complained about the filth and the chaos, ” according to a report from Owen. There were also structural problems, he said.
Also in 2009, Bread & Roses shut down its well-known advocacy center on Fourth Avenue because staff didn’t apply for the federal grant responsible for its funding. The rented facility had staff members to help homeless people find housing and social services, pick up mail, make phone calls, prepare résumés and use a computer to find work. The organization had been running in the red for two years, according to Owen.
Owen said the problems have been fixed. There are new accounting rules, a newly formed board of directors and a narrower focus, for now, on creating a community for homeless women, rather than just a roof over their heads.
It started with Owen and Hogan moving back into the staff house, where they had served for several years before Hogan ran for mayor in 2007. The couple, which accepts no pay, helped oversee repairs to the house.
Carpet was torn out, walls repainted. Bag after bag of trash was removed from the women’s shelter. Original hardwood floors were refinished, and industrial-grade carpet and vinyl flooring were laid down.
Bread & Roses received $60,000 in federal funds from the City of Olympia for the work, and paired it with $15,000 in its reserves.
The slope behind the home was reformed and planted with beds of vegetables.
Twelve women share the shelter, which is situated in a duplex next to the staff house, where they share meals and community. Staff members help them apply for permanent housing and get back on their feet. Its residents say it’s made a real difference.
“It kept me off the street, and I want to thank them,” said Diane Lay, one of the shelter’s residents. “I want you to know that it’s devastating being homeless.”
It means walking around all day, because most shelters require residents to leave in the morning and return in the evening, she said. That’s not required at the guesthouse, which particularly helps women with disabilities, Owen said.
More than a shelter, it’s designed as a community under the Catholic Worker movement, whose members invite low-income people to live with them.
Terri Ann Slater, who said she has been homeless off and on for 14 years, said she loves the garden and the peacefulness. “I came up here so I could live a new life,” she said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org