Dozens of agencies and organizations serve low-income and homeless people in Thurston County, and the number of groups helping with housing and services can make the system difficult for clients and providers to navigate.
A new networking group, the Homeless Housing Hub, has formed to help organizations share their activities and best practices, bring in speakers on topics of interest, work together on a legislative agenda, and explore funding sources.
“This is a reconfiguration of several previous groups dealing with homelessness and street despair,” said Anna Schlect, housing program manager for the city of Olympia.
The group includes representatives of about 70 shelter programs, city and county agencies, Habitat for Humanity, Quixote Village, and other housing programs and mental health providers. Attendance at meetings averages 20 to 30, Schlect said.
Schlect said that recent changes with the Home Consortium, another cooperative group, led to the creation of the Homeless Housing Hub.
“The Home Consortium is going to expire,” said Paul Knox, executive director of United Way of Thurston County.
Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake said the county is dissolving the existing Home Consortium and its functions will be part of the Community Investment Program and the Housing Action Team. The reorganization will streamline funding and provide metrics for making decisions about homelessness, he said. The Homeless Housing Hub will be part of the Housing Action Team, Blake said.
At the October meeting, the Homeless Housing Hub heard a presentation about urban rest stops — facilities that offer showers, restrooms and laundry. The program was of interest because Olympia is looking at options for providing public toilets downtown.
“What I love about that group (the Hub) is it includes line staff working with people directly,” Knox said. “We can do continuous improvement. We want to make sure systems of service by various organizations are working well together.”
Said Schlect: “It helps to strengthen the secure network.”