Community can help furnish shelter

A shelter for homeless families that will open in Olympia this summer could use a little more community support.

The Family Support Center of South Sound has made significant progress converting former city of Olympia office space at 837 Seventh Ave. SE into housing for families with children.

It cost nearly $2 million to make the transition from an office building to a family shelter, which will replace the overnight-only shelter at First Christian Church in Olympia.

The 24-hour-a-day shelter should be ready for occupancy July 1. However, the nonprofit group still needs funding to buy furnishings, including bunk beds, kitchenware and bath supplies. This is where the community can lend a helping hand.

Shelter managers have crafted a couple of fundraising ideas to make the shelter more of a home. Individuals and businesses are invited to contribute by purchasing the right to engrave their names and business logos on 600 bricks in the shelter entryway. The cost is $100 per person and $300 per business. Also, room sponsorships are available for $5,000.

Helping the family shelter open is an opportunity to reduce the number of children in our community who don’t have a safe place to sleep. The need is great: A yearlong census of Thurston County schools shows enrollment includes some 1,584 homeless school-age children, which is an increase of more than 300 from the previous high mark of students in 2010. The actual number of vulnerable children is much higher, since an estimated 42 percent of homeless children in Thurston County are younger than the school age of 6.

Only a small fraction of homeless children will be fortunate enough to secure a room and bed at the new shelter. With help from community members, the shelter can take on the semblance of a real home. For more information, visit the family support center website at fscss.org.