Time to Break out of NIMBY vs Non-NIMBY Stereotypes – Our Right to Public Process, Decisions Based on Good Data, and Safety

On Thursday morning, August 8, we, along with many of our neighbors, read an article in The Olympian and learned about the low-barrier shelter proposed in the Eastside neighborhood. We were shocked to find that it would house sex offenders, addicts, felons, and those without any ID, thus not allowing us to even know the potential violent backgrounds of those who are living there. We could not believe this was in such close proximity to our schools. We were in disbelief on the short timeline, with plans to open the shelter by November 1st.

We assumed that somehow we had missed a letter in the mail, or some type of notification and announcement of a public forum, but this was not the case. Our neighborhood was never notified. Regardless of where you sit on this issue, we believe our neighborhood has the right to a proper public process.

On Monday, August 12, several Eastside neighbors attended a meeting of the Thurston County HOME Consortium. The voting members are made up of a councilperson from Olympia (Jim Cooper) and one from each of a number of the surrounding areas, including Karen Valenzuela, the County Commissioner. This was a “funding” meeting, where 2.1 million in funding for many homeless services non-profit groups (SafePlace, Family Support Center, Sidewalk, etc) would be divided up and voted on by the Councilmembers.

The proposed plan would take $400,000 away from rapid rehousing and other housing and services for women and children and give it to the low-barrier shelter. The rapid rehousing organizations talked about the impact this would have on their organizations. A woman from the Family Support Center stated that it would put “45 families with children on the street.” She spoke of one mother who was sleeping with an 8-week old infant in a park.

Members from the Department of Commerce were invited to the meeting to report on findings from a nationwide research study on how to end homelessness. They reported that rapid rehousing is the most effective way to end homelessness. The data was clear – rapid rehousing is the best method.

At this point, we expected that based on the data, the Consortium members would decide to give the money back to rapid rehousing. We were wrong.

Councilmember Cooper and the rest of the voting body chose to take this money away from housing and services for families and put it towards this low-barrier shelter.

From where we sit now, we believe the lack of notification in our neighborhood was intentional. The low-barrier shelter proposal had been booted out of downtown and the project supporters  wanted to slip it into our neighborhood without notice. We are being railroaded. This is classic social justice issue.

Olympia is in crisis and we are not going to solve the problem unless we break out of “stereotypes.” There needs to be a camp in between “homeless are criminals” and “let’s house all the homeless on the West Coast to the point that we can no longer feel safe to use our parks, libraries, and public places.”

We have a right as citizens to a proper public process and decisions made based on the best available data.


2 thoughts on “Time to Break out of NIMBY vs Non-NIMBY Stereotypes – Our Right to Public Process, Decisions Based on Good Data, and Safety

  1. Jim Cooper

    I need to correct one piece of misinformation in is post in e paragraph regarding me. I made the comment about bricks and mortar and then went onto explain why I thought the funding recommendations were too strong on capital expenses and too weak on rapid rehousing, which is counter to what the data show. I also said the shelter is a priority, as the places where rapid rehousing works well also had adequate and accessible shelter. I the went on to increase the rapid rehousing pithy $160,000. This increase is being debated by the commissioners now as the home consortium is only advisory. I want people to know there is no final shelter location as of yet, only the system priority of getting the shelter up and running by winter. The conversation with your awesome neighborhood is only beginning. I hear all of the concerns and they are very real and legitimate. Many of theme will need to be addressed before anything is final.

    Jim Cooper

  2. Jessica Archer

    Councilmember Cooper, Thanks for commenting. I’ve requested the change with the admin. I decided not to get into the nuance of the 160k amendment, pulling all the rapid rehousing money and having them split it up. As I commented in the Monday meeting, no matter how you spin the numbers, 400k was taken out of other services like rapid rehousing, the Yelm services, etc for the low-barrier shelter. Wondering where the Yelm families that just lost 35k in rental assistance will end up? I’m guessing down the street from me. I also would like to respond to your comment about the conversation “just beginning.” The conversation is ONLY beginning because we found out about it. The bottom line is that putting this dangerous shelter beside a school in a residential neighborhood is unconscionable. How will the EGYHOP kids handle someone like this when they cannot handle the simple task of communicating with our neighborhood in a timely fashion? http://www.theolympian.com/2013/08/13/2670356/level-3-sex-offender-registers.html
    This plan is a disaster waiting to happen. I am hoping you will come around.

    Jess Archer


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