A social services hub for the street population’s most vulnerable citizens will open next year in downtown Olympia.
Negotiations are underway for the future Providence Community Care Center to lease the former Bayside Quilting building at 225 State Ave. NE.
Providence Health and Services is leading the project, which will bring several agencies together at one location to work to reduce the number of mentally ill people who end up in homeless shelters, jails or emergency rooms.
Providence spokesperson Angela Maki said the Bayside building will require structural improvements to meet city code before opening in the first or second quarter of 2017. Negotiations are almost final for a 10-year lease, she said, and renovations could begin as soon as December.
“The timeline could change depending on construction,” Maki said.
The center will serve people who need treatment for mental illness, health conditions, drug abuse and personal trauma.
Clients will have access to hygiene items, laundry facilities and health exams. Programs such as SideWalk, for example, will use the site to connect clients with housing, case management and short-term rental assistance. Other participating partners at the facility include the Capital Recovery Center, Interfaith Works, Behavioral Health Resources and Sea Mar Community Health Centers.
The care center will come with public restrooms, which could reduce the amount of human waste in downtown Olympia’s alleys and alcoves. City officials already are working on a public restroom project at the urging of downtown businesses.
Meg Martin, who runs the Interfaith Works Overnight Emergency Shelter at 701 Franklin St. SE, said the future Providence facility could have a positive impact on downtown Olympia — especially by providing a daytime location where the homeless can find help.
“A lot of the issues that we run into have to do with people’s desperation from being cut off from having their basic needs met,” Martin said. “It’s just going to really increase the dignity and humanity that people feel. Whenever that dignity increases, people are able to make changes in their lives.”
Providence reports that nearly 40 percent of clients — or about 1,800 people a year — at the Providence St. Peter Hospital emergency center crisis services department are trying to access the same social services that would be available at the Community Care Center.
The care center will be across the street from the Olympia Transit Center and a block from the future Billy Frank Jr. Place at the corner of State Avenue and Adams Street. The latter project is slated for completion in 2017 and will provide 43 housing units for homeless veterans, homeless young adults and the disabled.
Unlike the Billy Frank Jr. Place, the proposed care center will not provide permanent housing, which is seen as a crucial step for getting homeless people off the streets.
An advocacy group called Home Fund is lobbying area cities to support a property tax in 2017 that would pay for more affordable housing in Thurston County. No official proposal has been established, and such a tax would require voter approval.
However, supporters say more affordable housing will help the county’s most vulnerable people while reducing the strain on homeless shelters, jails and hospitals. According to the Home Fund, the goal with the proposed tax would be to create 500 new affordable housing units and assist more than 2,400 households.