OLYMPIA - The state Department of Social and Health Services wants to reopen the Touchstone Community Facility, a group home for youths in the city's northeast neighborhood.
The facility, which is owned by Community Youth Services, operated as a group home from 1969 to 2008, when state funding cuts forced it to close.
The state has requested a conditional-use permit from the City of Olympia to reopen the facility at 2010 Puget St. N.E., and the city held a public meeting on the proposal Wednesday. Amy Buckler, a planner for the city, said the state hopes to have the center up and running in June, but the approval process might take longer.
The center would house up to 16 residents ages 12 to 21, under the supervision of the state. The population would be violent male offenders but not sex offenders, the result of a standing agreement with neighbors, DSHS regional administrator David Charles said.
They would be offenders who once were housed in a detention facility but met criteria to be moved to a residential facility, he said.
Charles said the facility is “a good step-down approach,” rather than releasing youths directly from a detention facility.
“We want to be good neighbors,” he said. “This program will be under the structure and guidance of the state, so staff working with these youth will be state staff, state employees.”
Mike Dexel, president of the Northeast Neighborhood Association, said the group has no formal position on the home. But the last incarnation of the home was positive, he said.
“A lot of those kids in there were doing graffiti cleanup in the neighborhood, mowing the medians and that kind of thing,” he said. “It all just depends on who’s running the show.”
Community Youth Services owns the building and once operated the facility but has leased it for years. It last leased it to Second Chance, an operator working under contract with the state. Under the state’s latest proposal, it would operate the home directly.
“It’s been a very successful program,” said Wendy Tanner, chief operating officer for Community Youth Services. “We’re very happy to see it reopening.”
Charles said the state wants to reopen the facility because it is closing the Maple Lane School, a juvenile correctional facility in Grand Mound, in June, and needs to send young offenders elsewhere.
“I would say to the people who want to be good neighbors, we will be good neighbors and to give us an opportunity,” Charles said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 email@example.com