About the closure of the Deschutes Parkway homeless camp


The closing of the Deschutes Parkway homeless camp last week was a real milestone for the City of Olympia in its efforts to respond to the homeless crisis.  This was the end result of a long, complicated process.

The closure was ' not something that just happened overnight, the results of a knee-jerk reaction. Their mindful approach was demonstrated by how well prepared the city was once the day came to close the camp.  They had resources ready, including counseling and temporary housing for most.  That comprehensive approach respected both the housed and the unhoused.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank City of Olympia staff and The Olympian Mutual Aid Partners for all the effort that went into making this happen as smoothly as it did. Kim Konradt, the Homeless Services Coordinator at the city, deserves a lot of credit. '

Olympia and the region have now made significate progress on a number of fronts.  So how are we doing? And how do we tell? Turns out that in Olympia's Community One plan there are a number of measurable goals which allows us to gauge the success of our efforts.  I say "our efforts" because so many people are involved, not just the city.  These data points include

  • Number of residential units constructed
  • Number of permanent supportive units constructed
  • Number of affordable units (80% AMI or below)
  • Number of people served per year including: 
    • Percent connected to Coordinated Entry
    • Percent exits to permanent housing
    • Percent exits to unsheltered homelessness

There are also a number of measurements having to do with spending.  I looked at Olympia's recently adopted budget but was unable to tell exactly what's been spent or what is planned to be spent.   There simply isn't a place to look that consolidates all the financial efforts to combat homelessness. There are a number of programs in different departments funded by many different sources. For instance, in 2020 the city was awarded a grant of $800,000 to expand the Friendly Faces program. The preliminary budget showed over $3.2M for Housing, Homeless and low-income services in one location; this includes the Home Fund which is budgeted at $1.46M this year.  

But I can't tell if that number includes expenditures from different departments like the Office of Community Vitality under the city manager or the Homeless Response Services.  Nor can I tell where the money for the Scattered Sites program is.  Of course, I'm not actually involved, I'm just a guy spending a little time trying to discern what's happening. You can see what the fund has done so far here: Olympia Home Fund  In addition, those numbers don't reflect the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds which total $9.2M over two years. 

Not all of the ARPA money goes to create housing or shelter but much is directed towards low income and housing.  According to the city's budget, for 2021 the breakdown is:

  • Purchase Quince St. Property for Mitigation Site: $2,175,000
  • Move Mitigation Site: $500,000
  • Regional Housing Council: $2,000,000
  • Utility Assistance: $1,300,000

The bottom line is that there is a huge effort being exerted to address what are national problems of poverty, addiction and mental illness.  As we continue our local efforts, we need to know how we are doing.   What we would expect is to see the trends shown in the chart below reversed.   

Measuring how we're doing can also help prioritize and compare alternative program choices.  For instance, let's look at the city's mitigation site. The city is creating a site with 80 micro-houses.  Using the numbers above from the ARPA that's $33,000 each, plus there is the ongoing management cost.  From the categories in the graph do we now consider the people living there sheltered?  Or is this transitional housing?  Considering the dollars and effort being expended is this our best choice?  What have we actually accomplished?

I have no doubt that these are the questions that Council and staff regularly consider. There are a number of programs just now getting going, and we won't know the results for a while.  But statistically tracking the results is what will guide the future expenditures and programs.  Then we'll all hopefully have the satisfaction of success and know when it's time to change tactics.   

Pat Cole  -  pcbiglife@gmail.com - is a former member of Olympia's city council. As a private citizen, he seeks to set a positive tone and lead informed discussion about local civic issues.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The opinions expressed above are those of Pat Cole and not necessarily of The JOLT or its staff or board of directors.
Further, if you'd like to express your opinions, please write them up and send to us, especially if you are focused on Lacey or Tumwater. If you've got questions about what would be acceptable, please call Danny Stusser on 360-357-1000 x1. 


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  • margaret

    thanks Pat. Very clear and useful, and extending credit where it is due.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2021 Report this

  • KimDobson

    That's a lot digging to find all of this information Pat ,thanks for doing the foot work ! Just Housing and Olympia Mutual Aid Partners deserve much the congratulations for the coordinated eviction of the DeSchutes Camp . While the Olympia city council has implemented the Home Fund a regressive 1 tenth of 1% sales tax that everyone pays regardless of income levels that has certainly benefited the non Profit Homes First .The City council has failed to tax the millionaire speculators building downtown and in fact has gifted about 11 million in property tax relief approx. 6 wealthy speculators while failing to implement policies that would set long term policies that would assure low income housing is built . Why these policies below in the WIP article were rejected was that Master Builders and the Chamber of Commerce stated that they did not return a high enough return on investment . Here is the list of effective thoughtful policies that the council rejected as laid out in Works in Progress :

    Yours , Kim Dobson

    Let’s not do that

    - ON NOVEMBER 25, 2021

    The Olympia City Council in June approved a Housing Action Plan that lists specific actions the City will take to ensure our housing supply is adequate and affordable for the people who live here now and in the future.

    It also lists actions the Council considered but decided to exclude from the Plan. Both lists are useful for understanding the City’s commitment to market rate housing as the answer to the need for low-income housing. Excluded actions:

    Allow more housing types in commercial zones.

    Allow ADUs in commercial zones.

    Retain existing subsidized housing

    Limit the density of group homes to prevent concentration in any one area.

    Establish a manufactured home park zone to promote their preservation.

    Fund self-sufficiency and transitional housing programs that help break the cycle of homelessness.

    Provide funding to Regional Housing Council for temporary emergency housing programs.

    On a regular basis, evaluate the effectiveness of (MFTE) is being used to further affordable housing goals.

    Require developers to provide income restricted units as part of low-density developments.

    Require property owners to provide an affordable housing fee when building homes over a certain size.

    Establish alternative development standards for affordable housing.

    Require the owners of rental properties to obtain a business license.

    On a regular basis, inventory rental housing.

    Require developers to provide relocation assistance when a manufactured home park cannot be preserved.

    Establish a property tax assistance program for low-income homeowners..

    Establish a property tax assistance program for homeowners with disabilities.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2021 Report this

  • McKgus

    Mr. Cole, You might want to research this a bit more. There is much consternation in the way this was coordinated with agencies outside of Olympia especially in Lacey where over 30 of these individuals were put in motel rooms at the Lacey La Quinta Inn and Motel 8. Lacey's homeless coordinators where not notified about this move until Dec 7th Kim Konradt, the Homeless Services Coordinator at the city, deserves a lot of criticism for putting these individuals, several with outstanding warrants, in housing right across the street from a preschool and K-12 private school on Park Center Ave. and within two blocks of several public schools. While I applaud providing assistance for the people removed from the Deschutes Parkway homeless camp, I think Kim Konradt and the city of Olympia did their sister cities a disservice in how they "dumped" their problem on someone else's doorstep, literally.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2021 Report this

  • Honestyandrealityguy

    Common sense please. Keep building and providing free housing and guess what? People line up. In fact, others move here for free housing.

    Treat the proble. Such things like drug and/or alcohol rehab, strict rules and more. In other words HELP THEM TO HELP THEMSELVES!

    Wednesday, December 15, 2021 Report this

  • PCBigLife

    Just FYI, helping people help themselves is also happening; people are absolutely trying to help people become independent. Housing is only one technique for dealing with these huge issues such as poverty and addiction. For instance, part of the new Scattered Sites program provides caseworkers to assist people in the camps so they can progress and not be homeless or dependent. Sometimes this work starts with basics like getting people IDs, but the goal is to help people move on and get out of the hole they are in. We still lack treatment resources which are badly needed (we have a fraction of what we used to have) but there are some new facilities being built, and that is another avenue that needs work, especially at the state level.

    Friday, December 17, 2021 Report this