Proposed homeless shelter meets more opposition in Olympia

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 20 at 1:16 AM

A proposed shelter in Olympia is hoping the fourth time is the charm when it comes to finding the perfect spot to serve the homeless.  Already, three suggested sites have been shot down by concerned neighbors.  The latest suggested location met some fierce opposition on Wednesday night.

Meg Martin and the team behind 'The People's House' now want to set up shop in the old Olympia Steam Plant building on Thurston Avenue.  The building is currently vacant, but it sits directly across from an apartment that is home to almost 300 senior citizens.

On Wednesday, 'The People's House' hosted a public meeting, to give folks a chance to hear exactly what they have planned for the shelter.

"It's just really important to understand that with enhanced shelter services we are going to be able to get people stabilized, and get them into services and out of homelessness, and off the streets," said Martin.

Martin told the crowd their goal is to serve as a hub of hope and solidarity to the chronically homeless.

It would also be a low barrier shelter, and that's part of the controversy. 'The People's House' would serve those men and women who might be turned away elsewhere because, for instance, they struggle with sobriety.

According to the 2013 homeless census, there are about 237 unsheltered homeless living in Olympia, every single day.  Martin says those numbers show something needs to be done.

People who attended Wednesday's meeting and elderly residents of The Boardwalk Apartments don't necessarily disagree with that statement.

They just don't want the shelter setting up so close to their homes.

"We don't need it as senior citizens, we'd like to have a nice quiet peaceful life where we can do what we like," said Trudy Holder, who has lived at The Boardwalk for 14 years.  "I don't want to come home in the evening and have to worry about being mugged on my way to the door."

Similar concerns eventually put an end to three other locations 'The People's House' was considering.

"Why in heavens' name can't they find another place," said 80-year-old John Hays.  "I don't think it should be here.  There are too many homeless near here already."

If all goes as planned 'The People's House' wants to be open by next winter.

It would be able to serve as many as 40 people a night, and provide them with a bed, food, 24-hour public restrooms, and mental health support.

Martin says their goal is to get people off the streets and back on their feet.  She says the current homeless situation in Olympia is using a huge amount of public funds and at times can put a burden on law enforcement.

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