Interfaith Works won’t operate a winter warming center in downtown Olympia this year.
The organization needed $215,000 to cover staffing and rent for a warming center this coming winter, Executive Director Danny Kadden said. The city of Olympia had pledged $100,000 in federal grants to help fund the project, but Interfaith Works was unable to find funding to cover the rest of the costs.
“We are appreciative that the city of Olympia made a significant commitment of funds for a warming center for winter 2017-18, but other local governments were not in a position to provide additional funding needed to move forward,” a press release read.
The agency had operated a warming center in Olympia for two winters. Interfaith Works will continue to provide nightly shelter at the Emergency Overnight Shelter, at First Christian Church.
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Kadden said it saddens him to know that Olympia’s homeless community will not be receiving a service it needs.
“It hurts,” Kadden said. “It hurts when we turn people away from the shelter at night. And this hurts too.”
The warming center announcement comes a week before the grand opening of the Providence Community Care Center in downtown Olympia.
While the Community Care Center isn’t intended to be a warming center, its 9,000-square-foot building at 225 State Avenue Northeast is equipped with sinks, showers, laundry services and several bathrooms. It includes a welcome desk, a day room, a coffee bar, consultation rooms and exam rooms.
Ten social service agencies will have staff there, ready to connect people to mental health, physical health and housing resources. The facility is working with another 20 or so services outside of the building, said T.J. LaRocque, of Providence, at a Wednesday night open house for the center.
“It’s kind of like a giant waiting room,” LaRocque said. “This is a place where people come figure out what they need.”
Interfaith Works is one of the agencies partnering with Providence to operate the Community Care Center.
Interfaith Works had hoped to extend the winter warming center’s scope this winter, running the shelter November through March. The warming center would have operated during the hours that the Emergency Overnight Shelter is closed, so that the homeless population would have somewhere to go 24 hours a day during winter months, shelter program director Meg Martin told The Olympian in June.
Last year, Interfaith Works asked local government for $80,000 to operate the warming center in a fixed location: the former Alpine Experience building at 408 Olympia Ave. NE. Thurston County kicked in $40,000, while Olympia contributed $17,200, Tumwater contributed $7,200 and Lacey contributed $15,600.
Martin said the facility served an average of 193 people per day from December to April.
Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby publicly withdrew her support for the winter warming center at a June Olympia City Council meeting.
“I believe that management was poor,” Selby said. “Staffing seemed to look away when there was active drug use, and I continually saw drug dealers swarming around the exterior, preying on the vulnerable.”
She said there are other resources for this coming winter, including the Community Care Center and the Life Transformation Center operated by the Union Gospel Mission.