Just Housing Planning to Seek $500K+ Funding from Olympia for Homeless Encampment Support

The activist group Just Housing, who advocates for what is called Shelter-in-Place as the most cost effective solution to homelessness, may be asking the city for a half million dollars to support unsanctioned homeless camps in Olympia. Shelter-in-Place advocates that the least traumatizing approach to “informal settlements” is to allow the campers to remain on public or private land and have services provided to support them. This also involves “self-government” whereby each community makes a set of rules to abide by.

I found the following document in a FOIA request to the City of Olympia. This was in an email from Tye Gundel of JH to Olympia Council Member Renata Rollins on August 27, 2019, who is also a founding member of the group. This is not legally a conflict of interest, but it does raise questions of coordination, and shows the outsize influence JH has on Olympia’s political landscape when it comes to homelessness.

Image for post

This document is presented as is, any errors are in the original. I do not know if this has been filed for any funding, it is formatted similar to documents I have seen in applications for the Home Fund. It was asking for Rollins thoughts.

The photographs accompanying the text were taken on January 27, 2020 and published by Olympia Photography on Facebook. They show the remains of the 4th Avenue Bridge camp that JH advocated for and supported. They attempted to make this a model camp, working with the city who provided sanitation and trash services to the camp. It should be noted Tye Gundel was at the site and expressed dismay that the photographs were being taken.

THE DOCUMENT BEGINS HERE

What type of project are you proposing?

Housing and homeless services.

What priority population is to be targeted by the services provided?

Houseless individuals that are currently living outdoors and in encampments within Thurston County. This will include, but not be limited to: Houseless adults (25 years or older), houseless young adults (18–24), families with children, senior citizens, literally homeless households, LGBTQ persons , persons below 50% Area Median Income (AMI), persons below 30% Area Median Income (AMI), persons with physical and/or mental health disabilities, people with chemical dependency, domestic violence victims, ESL/immigrant populations, people with HIV/AIDS, tribal members, veterans, HEN-eligible clients.

Describe the need or problem that the project will attempt to solve in the community.

As the number of people experiencing homeless continues to grow at a rate quicker than the increase in shelter beds and affordable housing, our community is witnessing a rapid increase in people without homes surviving outdoors and in encampments. The January 2018 PIT count identified 835 houseless individuals in Thurston County, __ of which reported living outdoors. As of October 2018, The City of Olympia reported 311 tents in the downtown corridor alone. We are also aware of hundreds of individuals living outdoors outside of downtown Olympia in areas like The Jungle, the Percival Creek Canyon, near the Woodland Trails, and in greenbelts along the highway and within residential neighborhoods. The vast majority of these encampments and individuals are living without adequate access to potable water, heat, and basic sanitation services like bathrooms, garbage removal, syringe exchange, and showers. Furthermore there is currently little to no outreach/direct service support being provided to those living in encampments.

All of these factors have accumulated to create public health and safety crisis related to homelessness in Thurston County. This is supported by Thurston County’s and The City of Olympia’s declarations of Public Health and Safety Crises Related to Homelessness in July of 2018. These concerns are currently not only impacting the public health and safety of those living in encampments, but also that of housed community members, business owners, and visitors who live, operate, and visit in our community.

Aside from public health and safety concerns, this crisis has significantly damaged relationships, trust between various community groups, including; The City of Olympia, non-profits, the unhoused community, advocacy groups, business and property owners, and housed community members.

This program will attempt to address the public health and safety concerns related to encampments, improve connection to supportive and social services for those living in encampments, and to improve relationships, trust, and the ability to work together between all community groups and individuals.

Image for post

Provide a description of the project and explain how the program serves your target population and how it addresses the identified need or problem in the community.

This program will provide daily outreach and support to homeless encampments within Thurston County. All services provided will be outreach based. Services provided will be two-fold:

1.Public Health and Safety/Encampment Maintenance Support

2.Encampment Facilitation Support.

Public Health/Encampment Maintenance Support

  • Garbage removal
  • Provision of garbage removal supplies (bags, trash cans, and gloves)
  • Pick-up bagged garbage & transportation of garbage to local dump
  • Larger organized cleanups to address concerns in areas where large amounts of garbage have accumulated.
  • Human waste support
  • Connecting encampments with port-a-potty support
  • Syringe exchange
  • Provision of sharps containers, clean syringes, and full “safe use kits”
  • Collection of used sharps containers
  • Training and education about harm reduction and safe use practices related to substance use.
  • Survival Supply Distribution
  • Provision of blankets, tents, pallets, hygiene supplies, water, propane, etc.
  • Distribution of emergency supplies during hazardous weather emergencies
  • Mutual Aid pop-ups
  • At the larger encampments (Mitigation Sites, The Jungle, etc), we will host a weekly “Mutual Aid pop-up” where food, syringe exchange, and survival supply distribution will take place. These will also provide opportunities for the sharing of information about available shelter, housing, and supportive services resources and/or for service provider partners to connect with encampment residents.
  • Medic support (first aid, foot care)
  • Provision of first aid supplies
  • Providing basic first aid and foot care services as needed
  • Laundry/Blanket Exchange
  • Coordinating the washing, drying, and redistribution of clothes, blankets, sleeping bags etc
  • Providing transportation to laundromats and funds for use at laundromats.
  • Showers
  • Provision of solar showers and clean water
  • Working with partners to arrange places to shower for encampment residents. For example, Westminster Presbyterian is currently allowing residents of the Nickerson Encampment to use their facilities showers once per week.
  • Encampment Maintenance
  • Helping to set-up/provide materials for individual shelters/community spaces at encampments
  • Helping to set-up/maintain composting toilets/composting systems
  • Helping to set-up/maintain fire safe heating and cooking systems
  • Helping to set-up/maintain garbage/recycling/laundry system

**Would be ideal to have enough volunteers to always have at least 4 people “on” per day**

4PTE, 5 hours per day, 5 days per week.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Encampment Facilitation

  • Encampment organization support
  • Assisting encampment residents with forming codes of conduct, self-management/governing systems, accountability systems/expectations, processes for problem-solving and conflict mediation.
  • Connecting residents with relevant services & supports
  • Coordinate and do outreach with local service providers to connect residents directly with supports
  • Distribute information about available resources to encampment residents
  • Answer questions and complete basic referrals to resources relevant to individuals’ needs.
  • Work to connect encampments with faith-communities, non-profits and other community groups that can also assist with providing basic services and supports.
  • Attend meetings related to coordinating services for houseless individuals (ex. Vulnerability Index Meetings, HWTF).
  • Crisis response and support
  • Respond and assist as necessary/appropriate in instances of crises at encampments receiving support.
  • Support residents in instances of mental health and conflict related crises. Provide de-escalation and counseling as qualified and as needed. Connect to other appropriate services (Crisis Response, EMH professionals, referral to other crisis support services).
  • If possible, be present and assist when first responders are called to an encampment for an emergency (fire, crime, etc). Provide follow-up support as needed.
  • Assist in case of emergency hazardous weather to connect residents with emergency weather supplies and/or coordinate access and transportation to emergency shelter.
  • Liaison role (between encampments, units of government, neighbors etc).
  • First point of contact for concerns/complaints related to encampments the program is supporting
  • Facilitating relationship building between encampments & neighbors
  • Facilitating conflict mediation and problem-solving around challenges that arise between the encampment residents, neighbors, and units of government.
  • Attend relevant meetings (ex. Homeless Response Information Sharing)
  • Downtown corridor outreach
  • Provide nightly and morning outreach to individuals finding shelter in alleyways, on sidewalks, and in storefront awnings.
  • Let individuals know what time they need to be gone/have the area cleaned up in the morning.
  • Provide garbage bags, syringes, containers for urine & waste.
  • Collect used garbage bags, syringes, and containers (coordinate with Clean Team?)
  • Talk to individuals about available shelters, resources, and alternative camping locations. Assist with connection to these services as needed.
  • Facilitate conflict/problem-solving around challenges that arise with business and property owners related to people sleeping on their property.
Image for post
Image for post

What are the specific objectives and planned results of the proposed project?

· Mitigate public health and safety concerns related to encampments by providing increased access to basic health and safety supports like garbage removal, showers, bathrooms, syringe exchange, potable water, and first aid/foot care/wound care support, etc.

· Improve the quality of life for encampment residents and neighbors by assisting and empowering encampment residents in forming systems of accountability, problem-solving, conflict mediation, self-governance and self-management.

· Support encampment residents towards becoming more engaged and active members of the community by providing opportunities for and supporting self-organization, self-determination, and self-advocacy.

· Reduce the length of homelessness for individuals and increase opportunities for service providers to engage with a hard to reach population by improving coordination and connection to social service supports like shelter, housing, income, mental health, substance use, and medical health services.

· Improve, rebuild, and maintain relationships and trust between various community groups, including but not limited to; units of government, encampment residents, housed community members, non-profits, faith communities, and business and property owners through conflict-mediation, problem-solving support, and the facilitation of relationship building.

· Ensure that all staff and volunteers are adequately trained in regards to harm reduction, de-escalation, conflict mediation, and trauma informed care practices.

· Ensure that all staff are adequately trained to administer Naloxone in the case of an opiate overdose, as well as to train others to administer Naloxone.

4PTE, 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, 5 hours per week “on-call”.

If “on-call” is used, time can be taken off within 2 weeks.

Possibly alternating weekends?

2PTE, 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, 5 hours per week “on-call”.

If “on-call” is used, time can be taken off within 2 weeks.

OR

2PTE, 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, 5 hours per week “on-call”

If “on-call” is used, time can be taken off within 2 weeks.

2 volunteers, 10 hours per week OR 4 volunteers 5 hours per week

Image for post
Image for post

Administrative support

  • Supply sourcing
  • Fundraising
  • Workshops/volunteer training
  • Data
  • Grant writing
  • Reports
  • Volunteer recruitment
  • Outreach to churches, organizations, schools

Fundraising/sourcing could be a full time position

Outreach/training could be part time

If 2 PTE…

A: Outreach,volunteer recruitment, workshops/training

B: Treasury, data, grant writing, reports, fundraising, supply sourcing

In-reach

Funding/stipends available for people who are currently houseless who have encampment support related projects they want to take on or who are contributing to encampment support/facilitation services (ex. Encampment residents who is a point of contact & liaison).

Funding/stipend could be available upon request/proposal.

How to determine amount of stipend?

  • Formal process, set amount of money, set # of projects that can be funded at one time
  • If a person gets SSI income, stipend could make up the difference between $750 and the max income amount for someone receiving SSI.
Image for post

Summary Staffing Costs ($20.00 an hour with benefits)

4PTE Camp Facilitation + 4PTE Health Support + 2 Admin= $480,000 per year

4PTE Camp Facilitation + 2PTE Health Support + 2 Admin= $384,000 per year

2PTE Camp Facilitation + 2PTE Health Support + 2 Admin= $288,000 per year

Sanitation Support Costs Per Small Camp (10–12 people)

1 port-a-potty: $228 per month

Weekly garbage pickup (instead of dumpster): $140–150 per month

1 Handwashing station?:

Total: $368-$378 per month/ $4,416-$4,536 per year

Sanitation Support Costs Per Large Camp (40 people)

4 port-a-potties: $912 per month

1 Dumpster: ?

Weekly garbage pickup: $560 per month

1 Handwashing station?:

Image for post

Other costs

Survival Supplies: tents, tarps, blankets, plastic totes, zip-ties, first aid, harm reduction, hygiene, toilet paper, rope, batteries, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, water jugs, flashlights, etc, propane tanks, tent-safe heaters, camping stoves

No amount would be too much. We currently spend $600 per month serving 40 people ($15/person/mo). Between Wheeler Street, The Jungle, and 4th Ave alone there are about 170 people. Spending the same amount per person, it would cost $30,600/yr or $2,550/mo.

Round-up to serve 200 people per month and it would cost $36,000/yr or $3,000/mo.

Heat: Propane- $40.00/person/mo in winter, $20.00/person/mo in summer

Vehicles: 1–2 trucks or vans that could be used to haul water, propane, garbage, etc…..IT vans?

Gas for vehicles: $480/mo for two vehicles. $5,750/yr

Laundry: This cost could be largely offset by recruiting volunteers to help with laundry. We currently do not spend any money on laundry as all the laundry done for Wheeler street is done by volunteers who donate the cost. This is something we could continue to do with other smaller camps. However, this is more difficult to coordinate with larger camps. For larger camps it might be more feasible to set up a partnership with a laundromat, the CCC, UGM, or another place with laundry facilities. Would need to find out how much that would cost….

In the future, any laundry costs could probably be offset by the BABH laundry/shower trailer.

UPDATE

Tye Gundel of JH reached out to me with the following comments that are used with permission:

Hi Candy, I just wanted to send you some info related to your recent Medium piece. I know it’s important to you that you share accurate information.

The encampment support program proposal laid out in the piece is something that members of JHO created and are continuing to work on, because we believe it’s something our community needs and we believe we have experience that can be useful when it comes to imagining and brainstorming what that could look like/what’s needed. However, JHO will not be requesting funds for this proposal..nor have we ever attempted to. JHO is not an incorporated organization and therefore couldn’t get funds from the gov, even if we wanted to.

Candy: Can you speak to why it was shared w Renata?

We were talking about what it might look like to better mitigate the impacts of encampments for residents and the community. JHO had already been drafting this, so I shared it with her because it was relevant to what we were taking about. JHO is not incorporating.

Candy: what was the purpose of doing the work to draft it?

We drafted it and are continuing to work on it because we do believe that our community needs a program like this right now and we have enough experience to draft what that could look like. No one else, at this point, has the capacity or experience to draft what something like that could look like.

Candy: So you would like the camps to be permanent?

There is and always has been significant resistance from the city when it comes to shelter in place. One of the main reasons we hear is because no one can think of what it would look like in practice. We started working on this so we could say, “here’s an example.”

No one in JHO has ever advocated for camps to be permanent. It’s not the goal of JHO, nor is it the goal of SiP.

SiP is about doing the best we can to mitigate the worst impacts of camps while we work on creating and implementing long term solutions. Housing and indoor shelter solutions are not going to be created overnight. SiP is about making things better in the meantime.

Candy: But do you work to get people out of the tent now…? Do you encourage them to get help? to go back home? to quit drugs?

We would say that an SiP approach would be the right temporary response to that situation.

Image for post

To read more about the 4th Avenue Bridge camp and homelessness in Olympia please see my other work on Medium:

The Real Crisis in Olympia in Not Homelessness

Olympia Prioritizes 4th Avenue Bridge Homeless Encampment Over Community

Image for post

Candace Mercer is an artist/writer/activist who has lived in Olympia since 1996. She has worked with The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and the Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason Counties. She has written for Electronic Intifada, The Alternative Press and Works in Progress. She can be reached at therealprobleminolympia@gmail.com and her work can be supported through GoFundMe.

All images are used with the permission of Olympia Photography and News whose mission is “to photograph Olympia. Sometimes that means photographing something that is perceived to be beautiful, sometimes something that is perceived to be ugly will be photographed. However, at all times we will photograph and document the truth that we see, whether it is ‘ugly’ or ‘beautiful.’”

Written by

I am an autodidact nonpartisan freethinking board gamer from Olympia, WA. I've read 3000 books, that is 1.5 tons, I did the white math so you won't have to.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store