Submitted by Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
Keylee Marineau is smart, and funny—and she’s been working with the unsheltered population for close to ten years, ever since she was a contracted therapist for Partners in Prevention Education. Her experience at Rosie’s Place working with youth and young adults experiencing homelessness has given her a broad perspective. 40 percent of young people on the street identify as LGBTQ and most give their number one reason for being homeless as either being kicked out of their home, or feeling unsafe in their home. “That’s not a problem the County can solve alone.”
“’Solving’ the problem of homelessness goes way beyond finding housing for people,” she explained. “Getting people off the street touches on all kinds of issues, and requires all kinds of partners. It’s about lack of affordable housing. It’s about mental health. It’s about homophobia, childhood traumas, and racism. It’s about health inequities—the availability of care, and systems inequities. It’s about chemical dependency. There is really no part of our culture that doesn’t impact this population. The problem is societal, and cultural—and so the solutions also have to be societal, and cultural. We will all have to work together.”
As the Homeless Prevention Coordinator, Keylee is charged with working toward four overarching goals:
- Prevent homelessness before it happens
- Identify those people who are without homes
- Respond to those unsheltered people with resources
- Develop opportunities to develop affordable housing
The ultimate goal is to get unsheltered populations off the street and into affordable housing. To do this, Keylee represents the County by coordinating with all the partners and programs that are working on pieces of the problem. She’ll need to develop short and long-term goals, in collaboration with those partners, while engaging with the Thurston County community at large. The frustrations and hurdles are many, but Keylee is optimistic.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she admitted. “I wish it could. But the bottom line is that we have incredibly active and caring organizations and program leaders across a broad sweep of the County, and we have lots of people in the broader community who want to help problem solve and find solutions.”
It can be hard to get an accurate count of the homeless population because of the transient nature of the population. The current estimate is around 1000, but the actual count could be higher. The annual Point in Time census just took place on January 24th, so there will be updated numbers soon. While the numbers aren’t yet in for this year, we did see unprecedented turn out of community members wanting to volunteer. That is very hopeful for the future.
Keylee’s currently reviewing the County 5-year Homelessness Plan and working with providers and the City of Olympia to develop next steps. She wants to engage with the broader community too. “I want to hear what innovative solutions people have in mind. The County wants to do everything it can to help, not only because these are community members that need our help, but because part of our mission is to acknowledge and address health inequities. The recent impacts of the Federal shutdown nation-wide are a good reminder that many more people are just one bad situation away from ending up on the streets themselves.”
Regardless of the complexities of the problem, Thurston County is lucky to have Keylee’s experience and engagement focused on finding solutions.