Access to safe and stable housing is a fundamental human right and an essential component in addressing underlying health issues. Providence is committed to reducing homelessness in the communities it serves, making several targeted investments and building strategic partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide pathways to stable housing, health care and supportive services for those experiencing homelessness.
Providence Health & Services of Southwest Washington partners with and invests in the community’s ongoing efforts to provide resources to people experiencing homelessness in the greater Olympia area. One example is supporting the City of Olympia to provide temporary micro-housing for the unsheltered. Micro-housing units are small, hand-built structures that, unlike tents, provide dry and durable shelter. These units are built and provided through a partnership between the city, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and the Port of Olympia.
What began as a small volunteer project for one member of the United Churches of Olympia has blossomed into a city-supported initiative that provides more protection for unsheltered people. Micro-housing units are not intended to serve as permanent houses, but they are robust and can be locked to secure residents’ possessions. This, combined with city-installed features such as a water spigot, dumpster and hand-washing station, provides greater protection for those experiencing homelessness.
By developing a close partnership with Keith Stahley, Olympia assistant city manager, Providence became a trusted ally for city-driven efforts to address housing needs. When Stahley was approached with the idea to develop the micro-housing program for individuals not served by other programs, he identified Providence as an ideal community partner.
“We’ve built a great relationship with the city around homelessness. They have been a trusted leader of this important work and we look forward to our continued partnership,” says Angela Maki, communications and external affairs director at Providence Health and Services of Southwest Washington.
Providence contributed $50,000 to help Olympia jumpstart its micro-housing program for the City’s mitigation site in downtown Olympia. Though construction was challenging with in-person restrictions due to COVID-19 in 2020, the City and its partners were able to move the project forward and anticipate delivering 60 micro houses to the mitigation site by early May.
Efforts to identify and quickly act on solutions is crucial in addressing homelessness in Olympia and the surrounding community. These public–private partnerships have the potential to serve as a model for other regions struggling to find housing solutions for people in need. “The City of Olympia is driving this effort—it wouldn’t happen without them,” says Darin Goss, chief executive at Providence Health & Services of Southwest Washington. “Housing is a human right and we’re proud to support community-driven solutions to shelter our most vulnerable.”