Some Olympia residents upset over proposed homeless shelter

OLYMPIA -- People who live and work in Olympia's Eastside neighborhood are irate after learning about a church group's plan to create a homeless shelter just one block from St. Michael's Catholic School.

“It’ll house Level Three sex offenders, drug addicts, convicted felons and allow people without identification so we won’t even know the violent background history of people that are staying here,” said concerned resident Jessica Archer.

The plan is to convert the old Department of Transportation office at 1011 10th Ave. SE into a 40-bed “low barrier” shelter for men and women.  That means it would have fewer rules than other shelters in the city.

“There are very few options for homeless people in the community.  Most of the shelters are closed and most of the existing shelters have high requirements and barriers for entry,” said Daniel Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works, an Olympia nonprofit association of faith communities and individuals of diverse faith traditions whose goal is to help people in need.

Kadden said weapons or drugs would not be allowed, but neighbors worry about the kind of people who will wind up on their sidewalks and at this elementary school up the street.  Kadden was also unaware if the property would violate terms of parole for registered sex offenders.

“I’m not in a position from a legal standpoint to be able to tell you definitively.  That’s not my expertise, the legal reading of statutes,” Kadden said. “We are consultation with the Olympia Police Department and (sate) Department of Corrections to get a definitive understanding.”

Washington state law does not bar sex offenders from living near a school.  Judges make that decision on a case-by-case basis.  Law enforcement sources said most Level Three sex offenders and those who victimize children cannot live within 500 feet of a school.

Interfaith Works wants to open the shelter by Nov. 1, but said that is not set in stone.  Funding for the project would come from a $400,000 grant from Thurston County and an additional $35,000 from the city of Olympia.

There is a community forum on Monday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. at St. Michael’s Parish at 1208 11th Ave. SE in Olympia.