Concerned Eastside Neighbors
Engaging Citizens & Leaders to Address the Heroin Epidemic, Increased Violence,
and the Call for Low-Barrier Homeless Services in Olympia
The Need for our Mission
The heroin epidemic, the rise in violence, and the call for low-barrier homeless services in Olympia has prompted us to reframe our group and broaden our mission.
This summer the heroin problem and the violence reached a tipping point for many Olympians. Although the signs had been growing along, the arrests of six people for dealing heroin beside the library and the resulting death threats brought the epidemic into full light. This quickly followed with reports of kids being poked by dirty needles at the playground, and City Park Officials finding >200 needles in city parks in a single month. This summer was punctuated with frequent violent events such as stabbings.
We are at a point now where many have been personally impacted, or have neighbors, friends, or family that have been impacted.
Concerned Olympians will:
- Create awareness for the increase in drug use, drug-related crime and , and the call for low-barrier homeless services in Olympia.
- Take a critical look at what public agencies, non-governmental organizations, and law enforcement are doing now to address these issues.
- Work towards community protection measures that protect our neighborhoods and public spaces.
- Encourage appropriate services for specific, targeted populations with proper consideration to neighborhoods, vulnerable populations, the locations of schools and parks, and the zoning code.
- Encourage decisions based on robust data. We will ask who we are currently serving within our community, who we aren’t, who we should be serving, and where.
Our group originally came together to oppose placement of a low-barrier homeless shelter, the People’s House, adjacent to Olympia’s Eastside Neighborhood. The original grant materials for this shelter stated that the low-barrier population could include: sex offenders and those with drug addictions and justice system histories. The shelter was proposed to be located beside an elementary school in our neighborhood. The neighborhood and the nearby public schools were never notified so we organized and brought a couple hundred of our neighbors out to oppose this location.
Ultimately, the shelter organizers decided against this site. However, the realization that schools and neighborhoods were never considered in the siting criteria for this high-risk shelter has brought to light a lack of holistic planning on these issues – planning that considers the whole community.
The Call for a Low-Barrier Shelter
We realize it is dangerous territory to talk about the two “H’s” – heroin and homelessness, in the same sentence. Most people who are homeless are not dangerous or using drugs – they are just in a horrible, desperate situation. But one reason the low-barrier model is happening is that churches who have historically supported homeless ministry find their clientele to be increasingly dangerous
The violence and drugs we are seeing in the homeless population is well-documented by the very thorough and unbiased work of Austin Jenkins at National Public Radio (NPR). His report titled “Murder Reveals Lord of the Flies Street Culture in Olympia” includes members of the young homeless crowd stating that “trust has broken down because of heroin and meth.” This is also supported with the Olympian’s report of homeless camps littered with needles.
Yes, we need to help those in need. But low-barrier services require special consideration – considerations that include the surrounding neighborhoods and schools.
Increase in Heroin and Crime; and Loss of Public Space
Olympian’s Heroin Epidemic
As documented by the recent Olympian series, heroin has reached epidemic levels in Olympia. This is well tracked by the Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program. The Program gave away just under 200,000 (198,757) in 2006. This number will top 1 million in 2013, an approximately 500% increase since 2006.
Olympia is Not the Safe Place it Used to Be
This past summer, talking to your neighbors about crime and degradation in some parts of Olympia is becoming as common as talking about the weather. The Homefacts.com website ranks Olympia #5 in highest crime for cities in WA with a population of greater than 20,000 – above Tacoma. Keep in mind this data comes from 2012 and we should expect 2013 to be worse.
Loss of Public Space
Does a responsible parent let their children play around dirty, uncapped syringes? If the answer is no, then lets acknowledge the growing number of public spaces that we lost this past summer due to homeless occupancy, drug use/dirty syringes, or unsafe activities: Sylvester Park, Artesian Well, Woodland Trail, Percival Park, Lion’s Park, Harry Fains Legion Park, Madison Scenic Park, Bigelow Park, Intercity Transit hub, Port of Olympia Property… The Library… When this problem comes around bigger and badder when the fair weather returns, how much more public space will be lost?
A Call for Leadership
We will ask our leaders at all levels of government to confront these issues. We will work with the City’s councilmembers, committees, and police; the County Commissioners, as well as the state legislature and Governor to make these issues top priorities.
Concerned Olympians believe that we can do better. We have the power to decide our City’s future. We will expect respect. We will be intentional in protecting our neighborhoods and schools.
We will actively work with the local and regional government as well as area NGO’s to talk about the root of these problems and provide ideas for real solutions.
If we work together, we can make Olympia awesome again.
Visit our website to learn more and to get involved (this url will change when we figure out how to do it!) –
Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep in Touch:
Facebook – facebook.com/concernedolympians
Twitter – twitter.com/olyeastneighbor
Email List – tinyurl.com/cenemaillist