Olympia plans to convert its Plum Street Village from a homeless shelter into an elevated workforce entry, supported home village to help its residents secure employment and permanent housing.
Since 2018, the downtown village of 29 tiny houses has operated as a shelter with supportive services under a contract with the Low Income Housing Institute, headquartered in Seattle.
“We want to add more variety to the continuum of shelter housing available to individuals experiencing homelessness,” explained Kim Kondrat, the City of Olympia’s Homeless Response Coordinator, during a tour of the facility on Friday, Sept. 8. “We want to bring in a different scope of work where this will be employment focused.”
The city says it will expect residents at Plum Street Village to obtain some form of employment or be enrolled in continuing education classes. The city also intends for the village to operate as a “lower acuity” site that does not allow drug and alcohol use.
To facilitate this transition, the city has submitted a Request for Proposals (RFP) from qualified respondents interested in operating the facility to support unhoused residents as part of the State’s Rights-of-Way Initiative.
Respondents to the RFP may be partnerships between organizations, supportive services providers, or other nonprofits. The selected service provider will be paid an amount “not to exceed $1 million” for one year. The RFP specifies that the funding would cover all expenses to operate the Plum Street Village, including staffing and operating expenses, administrative fees, and other fees paid to the service provider.
During Friday’s pre-proposal site visit, Kondrat hosted Sherri Jensen, the CEO of Valeo, a Tacoma-based non-profit that combats poverty and homelessness by offering access to income and wrap-around support to help individuals find their path to permanent employment and housing.
No other potential service providers attended.
Jensen herself is a former homeless person, she told The JOLT.
“I’m proof that circumstances can be changed for those who are able to work hard and use the resources that are provided,” she explained, “and I think we can make a positive difference in working with the city and the residents here.”
During the 30-minute walk around the village, Jensen asked questions about everything from laundry, shower and maintenance issues to how Valeo can work with the city in providing continuing education services to the residents.
“I like the thought here,” commented village resident Mark Rendon who was sitting nearby. “I just hope we get a group in here that will make it happen.”
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