The Wards Building in downtown Olympia is about to get three new tenants: United Communities AIDS Network, Stonewall Youth and Partners in Prevention Education. The three nonprofit organizations plan to moved to the building at 317 Fourth Ave. E. in mid June.
This is a logical move. Clients will have better access to needed services and it makes sense to place the nonprofit organizations in the vicinity of other providers for better coordination of services.
“The new center will bring together HIV prevention and care services, youth programming, and drug and violence prevention support under one roof,” said UCAN executive director Charles Loosen, who will move his agency from its Harrison Avenue location on Olympia’s west side. “Our clients won’t have to catch three buses to get here.”
UCAN, which was founded 25 years ago to increase HIV prevention education, provides confidential HIV testing and assistance for people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. That support includes emotional support, food, clothing and monetary help for clients in need, according to UCAN.
Stonewall Youth provides support and help to young gay people and lesbians through support groups and advocacy.
Partners in Prevention Education helps young people affected by sexual and domestic violence.
Rosalinda Noriega, a co-founder of Partners in Prevention Education, said the three groups work closely together to make sure a client has access to the services each offers. “The three agencies have partnered and continue to partner together; we all work with those who are marginalized,” Noriega said. “Instead of referring someone with a phone number, we are making the personal effort to connect clients with services” offered at the other agencies, she said.
That’s the real beauty of sharing 4,300 square feet of office space. The nonprofits will be able to share referrals and ensure that clients get the assistance they need. They also will be within easy walking distance of other nonprofits such as the Thurston County Food Bank and Community Youth Services.
Noriega said Partners in Prevention Education hopes its new office will offer better privacy for clients, who come for counseling and other services. “Right now, our staff is tripping over each other and we don’t have adequate space for our support groups or violence-prevention meetings,” she said.
Other tenants in the old Montgomery Ward building are the Thurston County Democrats and the main offices of the Volunteer Center of Mason, Lewis and Thurston Counties, which also could offer UCAN clients a better feeling of anonymity than they might get walking up to the west side building.
“Someone wouldn’t know whether a person is coming into the building for HIV testing or to be a volunteer,” Loosen said.
This move by the three nonprofits to the heart of downtown Olympia makes sense because it will result in enhanced anonymity, better coordination of services and easier access to those services by dozens of clients.