What’s the alternative to low barrier homeless shelter?

September 2nd, 2013 by Ken

For weeks now I’ve gotten phone calls, e mails and personal contacts from people wanting to know when I’ll write about the low-barrier homeless shelter proposed to go on 10th Avenue in Olympia.

While homeless shelters and help for the homeless abound all over Olympia, this one gives some cause for concern.

A low barrier shelter basically means that it will take anyone who is homeless – – alcoholics, drug addicts, those with mental problems  and even the lowest of the low – – sex offenders.   Other homeless shelters around our community refuse to take these types of individuals.

However, Interfaith Works, a cooperative of local churches and other faith groups is proposing to convert the 10th Avenue property into a 40 bed shelter, which will take anyone, even those who often find it difficult to find housing.

The proposal is dependent upon receiving local grant money.

Most of us think that all homeless people are drug addicts, mental patients  and alcoholics, but fully 80 percent of our homeless are just that – homeless – and without the problems associated with drugs and alcohol.   They are often homeless for a short period of time before finding some place to live.

But, it’s the drug addicts and the alcoholics, which we most often find living on the streets, pan-handling and making downtown Olympia a place to avoid.

Many people, me included, think that the City of Olympia goes out of its way to encourage the homeless to hang around downtown.   Most social services they need are located in the city’s urban core.  And, the city is always looking at more money for social services.

A low-barrier homeless shelter, which takes anyone, must be located near the city’s core if it is to be successful.

I don’t know if the Eastside neighborhood is the right location for the shelter.   Maybe the South Capitol Neighborhood, or the Westside, or even downtown might be more appropriate.

What I know for certain, is that the city needs to have a community-wide meeting about the homeless – – particularly those with mental or drug problems – – and determine what – if any – city policies seem to encourage them to locate in Olympia.

Maybe part of the problem is the city’s readily acceptance of these unfortunates  as an indication of the city’s big heart.


Posted in Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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