Editorial: Cold snap brought out the best in our community…

Opinions Editorials

…and also highlighted the need for increased shelter and day center services.

At the beginning of this month, Olympia experienced an unusual period of cold weather, with daytime highs in the 30s and nights dipping into the teens. The extreme weather caused many in our community to worry about the safety of our unhoused and unsheltered neighbors; even those who sleep in homeless shelters must be out in the weather most of the day. We’d like to offer kudos to those who really stepped up to take care of their neighbors during this public health emergency.

First, a huge thanks to the individuals who took the initiative to meet basic needs however they could. You know who you are – you organized your friends on facebook to gather and distribute necessities (socks, handwarmers, food) to folks on the streets, or volunteered at a shelter, or donated needed items to local organizations serving the homeless. Everybody had a choice to do something or to do nothing, and you chose to do something. Good karma is coming your way.

Thanks to those social service organizations who expanded their hours, capacity or services in response to the cold. We know you’re underfunded and overworked, and that the community places very high demands on you every day to address or solve problems that stretch your capacity. Thanks for going the extra mile (again) to help out those in need.

Thanks to the city and county for putting on the Homeless Connect event at the Olympia Center. It was a great event, not only for folks to access services, but also for others in the community to contribute and connect with opportunities to help out. It was also a really excellent demonstration of what a low-barrier day shelter might look like!

Finally, we would like to specifically acknowledge several downtown businesses for going above and beyond. Thanks especially to the New Moon Café for opening its doors as a warming center staffed by EGYHOP volunteers during the worst of the cold. Big thanks also to Old School Pizzeria and the Urban Onion for offering good food and hospitality to those on the streets on Thanksgiving.

The cold snap may be over, but there are still many in our community who go without shelter on freezing nights, or who have nowhere to dry out during the day. Thirty degrees can feel just as cold as seventeen if your blankets and clothes are wet.

It’s true that our community has the capacity to end homelessness in a few years, if we direct our funding to programs that work.  In the meantime, we need to make sure that no one in our community is going without adequate shelter, warmth and food.

For those who are still interested in helping out, the Interfaith Works women’s shelter is looking for volunteers through the month of January. If you want to help, email thepeopleshouseolympia@gmail.com. ◙

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