Olympia's Homeless Response

Immediate, Emergency Actions

Homelessness affects all of Thurston County, but is most visible within the urban hub of downtown Olympia. In August 2018, there were approximately 30 tents in three City-owned parking lots. That number grew to over 300 by the end of November.

In July 2018, the Olympia City Council declared a public health emergency related to homelessness. Doing so enables the City to respond to the needs in the community more quickly.

The City is addressing the immediate, emergency needs with a variety of actions and strategies including:

  • Mitigation Site(s);
  • the Plum Street Tiny House Village;
  • a City & Faith Community Pilot Partnership;
  • Expansion of 24/7 shelter options;
  • Mobile Crisis Response and Familiar Faces teams;
  • and more.

Learn more about all of our homeless response actions at olympiawa.gov/homelessness and sign up for weekly email updates at olympiawa.gov/subscribe

Long-term Strategies & Actions

In March 2019, the City began a process to identify how we, as a regional community, will respond (in the long-term) to the homelessness crisis. This includes planning for the needs of residents, visitors, business owners and individuals experiencing homelessness.

This process is hosted and shepherded by a Community Work Group made up of 12 community members who bring a diverse set of perspectives and experiences. Learn more about them here.

They will bring people together from all parts of our community to identify the best possible strategies and actions for addressing this incredibly complex challenge.

The end result will be a community-driven Homeless Response Plan that includes a variety of strategies and actions, the individual organizations or multiple partners who will take the lead on each of them, and performance measures that will help gauge our progress over time.

How to Engage

This page is a place for the City to share information about our homeless response efforts, and for the public to have their questions answered, provide feedback, and share ideas. Our goal is a productive dialogue that leads to real actions that balance the needs of the unsheltered with the impacts on the community.

The following engagement tools are available below. More opportunities to provide feedback will be added as this process continues.

News Feed
See the latest news, rumor control and opportunities to get involved.

Q & A
Have questions about the City's emergency homeless response? Ask them here.

Ideas
Post your ideas in a virtual sticky note and "like" other's ideas that you agree with.

Surveys
Help us understand the impacts of the homelessness crisis on our community by telling us about your experiences.

Immediate, Emergency Actions

Homelessness affects all of Thurston County, but is most visible within the urban hub of downtown Olympia. In August 2018, there were approximately 30 tents in three City-owned parking lots. That number grew to over 300 by the end of November.

In July 2018, the Olympia City Council declared a public health emergency related to homelessness. Doing so enables the City to respond to the needs in the community more quickly.

The City is addressing the immediate, emergency needs with a variety of actions and strategies including:

  • Mitigation Site(s);
  • the Plum Street Tiny House Village;
  • a City & Faith Community Pilot Partnership;
  • Expansion of 24/7 shelter options;
  • Mobile Crisis Response and Familiar Faces teams;
  • and more.

Learn more about all of our homeless response actions at olympiawa.gov/homelessness and sign up for weekly email updates at olympiawa.gov/subscribe

Long-term Strategies & Actions

In March 2019, the City began a process to identify how we, as a regional community, will respond (in the long-term) to the homelessness crisis. This includes planning for the needs of residents, visitors, business owners and individuals experiencing homelessness.

This process is hosted and shepherded by a Community Work Group made up of 12 community members who bring a diverse set of perspectives and experiences. Learn more about them here.

They will bring people together from all parts of our community to identify the best possible strategies and actions for addressing this incredibly complex challenge.

The end result will be a community-driven Homeless Response Plan that includes a variety of strategies and actions, the individual organizations or multiple partners who will take the lead on each of them, and performance measures that will help gauge our progress over time.

How to Engage

This page is a place for the City to share information about our homeless response efforts, and for the public to have their questions answered, provide feedback, and share ideas. Our goal is a productive dialogue that leads to real actions that balance the needs of the unsheltered with the impacts on the community.

The following engagement tools are available below. More opportunities to provide feedback will be added as this process continues.

News Feed
See the latest news, rumor control and opportunities to get involved.

Q & A
Have questions about the City's emergency homeless response? Ask them here.

Ideas
Post your ideas in a virtual sticky note and "like" other's ideas that you agree with.

Surveys
Help us understand the impacts of the homelessness crisis on our community by telling us about your experiences.

  • Community Stakeholder Interviews

    20 days ago

    The City contracted with The Athena Group to conduct confidential interviews with 20 local stakeholders to help better understand how to effectively respond to homelessness and its impacts on the city. The stakeholders represented a diverse range of community interests, including law and justice, business and economy, current and formerly homeless individuals, the faith community, elected officials, local residents and families, and homelessness advocates and service providers. Read the summary...

    The City contracted with The Athena Group to conduct confidential interviews with 20 local stakeholders to help better understand how to effectively respond to homelessness and its impacts on the city. The stakeholders represented a diverse range of community interests, including law and justice, business and economy, current and formerly homeless individuals, the faith community, elected officials, local residents and families, and homelessness advocates and service providers. Read the summary...

  • 4th Ave Bridge Encampment Update

    23 days ago

    Long term, it is the City's intent to completely remove the encampment under the 4th Avenue Bridge. We are currently working to build the partnerships, summon the resources and develop a plan for how to do so.

    In the meantime, for the short-term, we are taking interim measures to address the health and safety concerns of the community, City and Department of Ecology.

    • The City is in the process of shrinking the footprint of the unsanctioned camp under the 4th Avenue Bridge.
    • Notice is being given to those campers that continue to stay in fragile areas of the bridge...

    Long term, it is the City's intent to completely remove the encampment under the 4th Avenue Bridge. We are currently working to build the partnerships, summon the resources and develop a plan for how to do so.

    In the meantime, for the short-term, we are taking interim measures to address the health and safety concerns of the community, City and Department of Ecology.

    • The City is in the process of shrinking the footprint of the unsanctioned camp under the 4th Avenue Bridge.
    • Notice is being given to those campers that continue to stay in fragile areas of the bridge that they will be removed.
    • Next week, staff will be fencing off those sensitive areas to keep damaging activity from happening there.
    • Two portable toilets are expected to be in place on the site by Friday, April 5. The hope is that by providing these facilities, we can help abate activity that can threaten water quality.
    • Expedited garbage pickups will begin next week, and the Friday clean-up crews continues their weekly work.


  • Setting it Straight: Plum Street Village Placements

    about 1 month ago

    We’re hearing that members of the community are not clear on how residents are placed into the Plum Street Tiny House Village.

    Unlike other models of tiny home villages in the community, the Plum Street Village was never designed or staffed to be a long-term, supportive housing option. For example, the Village does not have medical resources to care for residents who cannot physically care for themselves.

    In designing the Plum Street tiny house model, the City worked with and made commitments to the surrounding neighbors and businesses. And we took advantage of the lessons learned by LIHI (who are...

    We’re hearing that members of the community are not clear on how residents are placed into the Plum Street Tiny House Village.

    Unlike other models of tiny home villages in the community, the Plum Street Village was never designed or staffed to be a long-term, supportive housing option. For example, the Village does not have medical resources to care for residents who cannot physically care for themselves.

    In designing the Plum Street tiny house model, the City worked with and made commitments to the surrounding neighbors and businesses. And we took advantage of the lessons learned by LIHI (who are the subject matter experts on this for the region) on how to make it successful.

    Plum Street is intended to be short-term, interim housing where residents can stabilize, connect to services, and set themselves up for their next longer-term, intentional step.

    Staff work with the Coordinated Entry system in identifying potential residents, but the Vulnerability Index is only one criteria for determining eligibility to be placed. Because Olympia residents expect our actions to impact homelessness in our City, placement priority is given to people who are homeless in Olympia. Priority is also given to couples.

    Those who join the Village are expected to make the commitment to be part of the Village community, including site council, shared management and cleanup of the Village, signing a good neighbor agreement and committing to certain behaviors.

    There have been people denied placement in the Village. Some because they need more supportive services than the Village can offer them and some because they weren’t yet in a place where they were prepared to commit to the community responsibilities and the required behaviors.

    For those who are ready to find some steadiness, ready to connect and use the services, and ready to be part of the Village community, Plum Street will help them take positive steps forward in their lives and give them some tools to be successful.


  • State Ave Encampment Removal

    about 1 month ago
    Lot

    The unsanctioned encampment in the City parking lot on State Avenue was removed and on Tuesday, March 5. Over 20 people who were staying there chose to move to the City's managed Mitigation Site.

    The lot will remain fenced for the rest of the month. It will go back to being a leased parking lot the first week of April.

    The unsanctioned encampment in the City parking lot on State Avenue was removed and on Tuesday, March 5. Over 20 people who were staying there chose to move to the City's managed Mitigation Site.

    The lot will remain fenced for the rest of the month. It will go back to being a leased parking lot the first week of April.

  • City Clarifies Interpretation of Ninth Circuit Court Ruling

    about 2 months ago
    Memo

    In early September, The City temporarily paused its efforts to remove unsanctioned camps to fully review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin v. City of Boise which addressed the rights of the homeless.

    The City has now completed its review and is again moving forward with the lawful removal of unsanctioned encampments using the best practices available. Read the Memo

    In early September, The City temporarily paused its efforts to remove unsanctioned camps to fully review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin v. City of Boise which addressed the rights of the homeless.

    The City has now completed its review and is again moving forward with the lawful removal of unsanctioned encampments using the best practices available. Read the Memo

  • Plum Street Village Move In!

    2 months ago
    Plum

    Plum Street Village now has 11 new residents - 5 couples and one single individual. Each of these residents came from the Mitigation Site, which frees up those spaces for new campers.

    Residents are being moved into the Plum Street Village in small batches to allow them time and space to acclimate to the village environment.

    Plum Street Village now has 11 new residents - 5 couples and one single individual. Each of these residents came from the Mitigation Site, which frees up those spaces for new campers.

    Residents are being moved into the Plum Street Village in small batches to allow them time and space to acclimate to the village environment.

  • 5th Avenue Bridge Encampment Removal

    2 months ago

    The unsanctioned encampment under the 5th Avenue bridge was removed on Friday, February 22.

    Following a prior walk-through of both the 4th Ave and 5th Ave bridges, City staff determined immediate action was necessary for 5th Avenue due to activity that was compromising the bridge structure and public safety.

    Campers were notified of the removal of on Tuesday, February 19.

    The area under the bridge will be fenced off to prevent further unsanctioned camping.

    The unsanctioned encampment under the 5th Avenue bridge was removed on Friday, February 22.

    Following a prior walk-through of both the 4th Ave and 5th Ave bridges, City staff determined immediate action was necessary for 5th Avenue due to activity that was compromising the bridge structure and public safety.

    Campers were notified of the removal of on Tuesday, February 19.

    The area under the bridge will be fenced off to prevent further unsanctioned camping.

  • Mitigation Site during Cold Weather

    2 months ago

    During recent cold weather, Thurston County declared a Code Blue, which opened additional shelter beds for those outside.

    Some of the campers at the Mitigation Site went to Union Gospel Mission. Some chose to shelter in place. There was also capacity at Family Support Center, Salvation Army and CYS.

    At the Mitigation Site itself, two community tents are warmed with propane heat. City staff also delivered supplies like hand warmers and emergency blankets to the campers who remained.

    If members of the community want to help, the organizations providing warming sites are always challenged...

    During recent cold weather, Thurston County declared a Code Blue, which opened additional shelter beds for those outside.

    Some of the campers at the Mitigation Site went to Union Gospel Mission. Some chose to shelter in place. There was also capacity at Family Support Center, Salvation Army and CYS.

    At the Mitigation Site itself, two community tents are warmed with propane heat. City staff also delivered supplies like hand warmers and emergency blankets to the campers who remained.

    If members of the community want to help, the organizations providing warming sites are always challenged to find enough volunteers for the excess capacity during cold weather events.

  • Plum Street Village Open House

    2 months ago
    Plum open house


    On Thursday, Jan. 31, an open house was held at Plum Street Village. Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) staff, who have opened several tiny home villages throughout Washington, told us that this was the best-attended open house they’d ever had.

    A huge thank you to the individuals, non-profits and school who volunteered their time to make the Village possible. It was amazing to see the quality of work on the houses and the pride of those who built them.


    On Thursday, Jan. 31, an open house was held at Plum Street Village. Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) staff, who have opened several tiny home villages throughout Washington, told us that this was the best-attended open house they’d ever had.

    A huge thank you to the individuals, non-profits and school who volunteered their time to make the Village possible. It was amazing to see the quality of work on the houses and the pride of those who built them.

  • 4th Ave Bridge Encampment

    2 months ago

    The City is aware and, like you, concerned about the encampments under the 4th Avenue Bridge. The Assistant City Manager, City Engineer, Code Enforcement, and Olympia Police Department recently visited the site to assess the current conditions. Staff are currently determining what can be done in the short-term.

    We are confident that by focusing on improving the situation in the core of our Downtown, i.e. opening the Mitigation Site and Plum Street Village, and bringing on even more 24/7 shelters, we will have the needed shelter options to address the bridge encampment soon.

    The City is aware and, like you, concerned about the encampments under the 4th Avenue Bridge. The Assistant City Manager, City Engineer, Code Enforcement, and Olympia Police Department recently visited the site to assess the current conditions. Staff are currently determining what can be done in the short-term.

    We are confident that by focusing on improving the situation in the core of our Downtown, i.e. opening the Mitigation Site and Plum Street Village, and bringing on even more 24/7 shelters, we will have the needed shelter options to address the bridge encampment soon.