A ribbon cutting was held Saturday for the region’s new 24-hour homeless shelter from Family Support Center of South Sound.
Pear Blossom Place is located in the former Smith Building at 837 Seventh Ave. SE in Olympia. Families will begin moving into the shelter July 1.
The shelter has six rooms with 28 beds for families with children, along with seven subsidized apartments for 32 more people who qualify.
Pear Blossom Place replaces the support center’s overnight-only shelter at First Christian Church, 701 Franklin St. SE. Pastor Amy Walters blessed the new facility at Saturday’s ribbon cutting, wishing that every family who enters will find relief, peace, comfort and hope.
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Walters said the church was able to expand hours of shelter service over the years, but despite serving about 30 people every night, it was never enough. She said the new shelter is a “dream come true” for the various volunteers and supporters who made it happen.
Moving forward, First Christian Church is exploring a potential partnership for an adult shelter with Interfaith Works, Walters said. Interfaith Works is a local consortium of faith communities that is trying to find a location for The People’s House, a proposed low-barrier shelter.
“The church is committed to leaving that as shelter space if there’s a community partner that can step in,” Walters told The Olympian. “As long as shelter is needed, we’re committed to sheltering people.”
Pear Blossom Place was finished for $1.9 million, which is about $200,000 under budget, said Schelli Slaughter, executive director. Funding came from local, state and federal sources, including about $1 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Various sponsors furnished and stocked the rooms, which had bunk beds, kitchenettes, bathrooms and dining tables. Olympia Federal Savings won the “extreme makeover contest” after a handful of volunteers to decorated one room and made it look more like a home.
Aside from preparing for Tuesday’s official opening, the facility is still looking for more donations ranging from furniture and snacks to toiletries and bus passes.
“The real work is just beginning,” said Slaughter, who expressed appreciation for all the volunteers who helped get the shelter off the ground. “We’re just jumping right in. Families need shelter 24/7.”
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum delivered a proclamation at Saturday’s ribbon cutting to honor the new shelter – and remind attendees of the ongoing challenge to serve homeless families.
“Homelessness is a tear in the fabric of our community,” Buxbaum said. “This is a giant step forward in this community in helping us repair that tear.”
According to a yearlong census released in April, Thurston County schools counted 1,584 homeless students, compared with 1,123 homeless students reported in 2013. The results include only children enrolled in school, according to census organizers, and 42 percent of homeless children are estimated to be under age 6.