An overnight shelter for homeless young adults in Olympia has averted a temporary summer closure after raising more than $50,000 in one week.
Community Youth Services operates a 10-bed shelter at 520 Pear St. SE, which serves about 120 individuals ages 18-24 every year. The shelter has operated at capacity since opening in 2013.
However, it was ready to close Friday through Sept. 1 due to a lack of money.
In response, the nonprofit organization launched an online fundraising campaign last week. Nearly $17,000 had been raised through a gofundme.com page as of Friday afternoon.
The biggest donation came from a charity called Help Us Move In Inc., which provided a $20,000 matching grant. Help Us Move In founder and chairman Burt Sarver said his nonprofit organization began at First United Methodist Church in Olympia and has helped more than 1,200 local homeless children since 2000.
Other donors included the Chehalis Tribe, First United Methodist Church of Olympia and the South Sound Community Foundation.
“The community response has been unbelievable,” said Scott Hanauer, CEO for CYS. “The closure of this shelter would have kind of a domino effect in terms of how it impacted the participants.”
Hanauer was referring to the clients who use the overnight shelter, which costs about $220,000 to operate year-round and has previously relied on reserve funding to get through the summer. Most young homeless people will choose the streets or the woods over a traditional adult shelter because of the potential for being victimized, he said.
Those who use the CYS shelter are able to access social services to help them deal with mental health and substance abuse issues too.
“The shelter is sort of the portal to help young people,” Hanauer said.
Gary Aden, program manager for Thurston County Housing and Community Renewal, said he received an email last week from CYS asking for about $15,000 in assistance. The request was later rescinded after the donations poured in, he said.
An online appeal is an unorthodox way to raise money for a charity with an $8.2 million budget, Aden said.
“It’s a rather unique approach,” Aden said of the gofundme.com campaign. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it before.”
The overnight shelter is housed at the Brighter Futures Youth Center, which also provides case management, counseling services, meals, clothing, showers, laundry and hygiene items through a program called Rosie’s Place.