A new approach to serving Olympia’s homeless

Providence Community Care Center in Olympia, Washington

For the more than 800 people experiencing homelessness in and around Olympia, Washington, meeting basic human needs like shelter, food and health care can be challenging.

The staff at the Providence Community Care Center recognize that the first steps are to meet individuals where they are and tell them about available resources. When guests like Liz arrive at the center, they are immediately offered a cup of coffee, hygiene services and a place to store their belongings. 

Liz was born and raised in Olympia and has watched it change over the years. Her most recent perspective comes from living unsheltered off and on since 2013. But after visiting PCCC, she says: “This is what the homeless needed, the Community Care Center – people who actually care about them and who are willing to be there help them.”

PCCC-infographicNumerous nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the Olympia area offer vital support and resources, often focusing on just one of these needs. But when a person lacks reliable transportation or is suffering from mental health issues, navigating the maze of community resources can be overwhelming, often leading them to seek care through the emergency department or ending up in law enforcement custody.

These short-term solutions take an emotional and financial toll on the community and only perpetuate an ineffective cycle.

Through sustained coordination to reach a unified vision and build trust, Providence Health & Services in Southwest Washington came together with local organizations and agencies to form the center in 2017. The PCCC is based on an innovative model of deep community partnerships and collaboration, and is building the infrastructure for long-term program success while serving the community’s most vulnerable people.

Michelle James, Providence Southwest chief nursing officer, is proud of the community partnerships that have empowered the center to make a significant impact. She says: “The center would not be possible without the alliance of so many committed organizations and the generous community donors who supported and funded the concept.”

PCCC is a central hub for people who lack a stable home to request housing and hygiene services, primary care, mental health services and substance use treatment. It provides integrated care for in a safe and secure environment.

Beyond the immediate point of entry, guests stay in constant contact with health professionals, counselors and community organizers who help them safely and comfortably find available services while also building trusting relationships.

Brandee, a Providence mental health provider at PCCC, believes this tactic is what makes the center so effective. “What I would say is amazing about the model here is our approach,” she reflects. “We all just kind of wrap around someone to ensure that they are safe.”

Since its opening, the center has seen more than 57,000 guests walk through its doors, averaging 150 guests per day. A total of 352 people have been placed into housing, 15,691 showers have been taken, and 3,774 loads of laundry have been washed.

This, according to Liz, is exactly what Olympia needed: “This is my hometown, and I’ve seen a lot of changes, and honestly, with the Community Care Center, this was a good change.”

Learn more about the Providence Community Care Center and its partners.

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