IW Overnight Shelter at Three Years

The original staff that opened the Overnight Shelter in November 2014

by Danny Kadden, Executive Director

November 1, 2017 marks the three-year anniversary of the opening of the IW “Emergency Overnight Shelter” at First Christian Church. Emerging from “The People’s House” organizing project, Meg Martin and her team, hand in hand with Interfaith Works, did some incredible heavy lifting, raised the level of awareness and understanding of downtown street homelessness, built deep partnerships across downtown and the wider community, and earned the trust of local government funders. The result was Thurston County’s first low-barrier, year-round shelter that focused on the needs of the most vulnerable.

It was an historic turning point in the development of homeless services in our community, but there was precious little time to dwell on the Big Picture –the everyday needs of the shelter and guests demanded tremendous energy and flexibility from our managers, support staff, volunteers, and the guests too. The creativity and resilience of our shelter staff is the big untold story of this project, and this community owes them more than can ever be paid.

Through many high points and low points, the shelter has done its work of meeting people where they are, making meaningful connections and saving lives. We dove headlong into the effort to open a downtown Warming Center and then the Community Care Center in partnership with Providence Health & Services and other local service providers (which became a reality on September 13).

The whole tone and direction of our civic conversation around homelessness and affordable housing has changed in large part due to this shelter program. Compassion is alive and well, a real force shaping our public policies around homelessness and the social safety net. That alone is worth appreciating and celebrating. But there is so much more work ahead. The shelter will open at 5:00 today, as always. Our funding gap is big enough to drive a truck through. Winter is approaching. The unmet need for shelter and permanent supportive housing is daunting. Rental costs in Thurston County are rising at alarming rates, sending more people over the edge into homelessness.

We see the challenges and know they will be hard to surmount. But we also know we are on the right track, thanks to the success we’ve seen and the great community support we’ve enjoyed.

Check out the newly-designed Overnight Shelter program website
for news, volunteer opportunities and other resources:



 From The Olympian

Editorial, Sept 7, 2017

A decision this week by Interfaith Works to jettison its plan for a winter warming center for Olympia-area homeless people was a tough decision, and a disappointment. But it was a pragmatic call by a group that has truly been stepping up to face and solve South Sound’s homelessness troubles when others have not… Even so, our community still needs a permanent, around-the-clock shelter. Leaders across our county need to regroup and look carefully at how to support 24-hour shelter options advocated by Interfaith Works, including a warming center for Thurston County.

Sept 30, 2017

[Olympia police chief Ronnie] Roberts said, “We can’t turn our back on that.” … When [Chief Roberts] drives through Olympia on his way to work and sees people on the streets, he doesn’t view it as a police problem. “We have a community in need,” Roberts said. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of the problem. It’s going to take far more than law enforcement. It’s going to take the business community, the city, the county, the state and social service providers.

Editorial, November 10, 2015 — Two Years Ago

Homeless shelter shows progress :Two years ago, there was a roaring controversy about locating a shelter for homeless adults in downtown Olympia. A year ago, the shelter finally opened in First Christian Church at Seventh and Franklin. To the surprise of some of its opponents, nothing bad has happened; to the great relief of its guests, a great deal of good has.