Light of Hope 2014: Olympia homeless shelter keeps running out of blankets

Aside from needing more beds, downtown Olympia’s newest homeless shelter could use anything that keeps people warm.

The Interfaith Works Overnight Emergency shelter opened Nov. 1 with 30 beds and has been full ever since. In fact, the waiting list has reached nearly 200 people, said program director Meg Martin.

“We have been at capacity every single night. We’re turning people away,” Martin said. “It’s pretty bad how many people need shelter.”

As the winter season ripens, the shelter wants to ensure that the local homeless population has access to blankets and socks, which often get soaking wet from outdoor use. Because of the lack of laundry facilities, it’s easier to give people new socks and blankets, rather than scramble for a place to wash and dry these items, Martin said.

“We keep running out of blankets,” said Martin, noting the shelter’s efforts to meet basic needs for a vulnerable segment of the population. “The holidays can be really hard for folks living on the streets.”

Interfaith Works is one of a variety of groups seeking donations for people in need this time of year.

The shelter is located at First Christian Church, 701 Franklin St. SE. Organizers will eventually offer 42 beds, with 20 of those beds for women.

The shelter’s website at iwshelter.org contains a wish list for donations such as:

The shelter is a project of Interfaith Works, a local consortium of faith communities dedicated to serving people in need.

One of the shelter’s main partners is the SideWalk Program, which connects the homeless with housing, case management and short-term rental assistance.

The non-profit organization primarily works with single homeless adults to get them off the streets and into apartments. Rehousing people brings a sense of safety and helps stabilize people as they move forward with their lives – and any donations are welcome to help with the rent, said Danny Kadden, executive director.

“We’re trying to simply have the largest fund available to pay rent subsidies or rent assistance,” Kadden said. “There’s nothing seasonal about that. It’s all year round.”

According to the 2014 Thurston County homeless census, the number of unsheltered homeless people — those sleeping in places such as cars, parks, abandoned buildings and the streets — has increased, with volunteers counting 263 unsheltered homeless people. This represents about 44 percent of the total homeless population.

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