Submitted by Providence

In 2014, the Providence St. Peter Foundation board presented an idea to the Providence operations team, to fund behavioral health services for the most vulnerable individuals in our community. The goal was to ease the way of these individuals who would normally utilize the Providence Emergency Department. In 2015, the Providence St. Peter Foundation Christmas in the Forest Fund-a-Need was dedicated towards this new service model. In the matter of 20 minutes over $300,000 was raised for the project. In total, the foundation has committed $3.2 million for this social service hub.

Under the direction of the Providence operations team, the Providence Community Care Center (PCCC) opened in September of 2017. The intention and vision was to bring together already existing organizations to work collaboratively and provide a single point of access to services for vulnerable individuals in our community. We created the PCCC to connect these individuals with the basic building blocks of healthy living: food and shelter, and mental and physical health care.

That winter, the lack of a warming center in Thurston County caused a void for the homeless population, and in addition to providing much needed social services, the PCCC became the default warming center for our community. It was never the design or intention for PCCC to function as the default warming center or an “urban rest stop.”

During the past few years, we have worked with our partners to resolve issues which have surfaced because of this default operating model. Due to significant philosophical and operational differences, the Providence operations team has made the decision to discontinue partnership with Interfaith Works and Sidewalk at the Providence Community Care Center. We are notifying these two organizations of our decision today.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, and in consultation with Schelli Slaughter and Dr. Diana Yu of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, the PCCC day room has been closed since March 17. During this time, the PCCC modified its service delivery to continue to accommodate community needs without operating a day room.

Providence caregivers at the PCCC continued to serve their patients with behavioral health and medication management services by outreach and appointment, utilizing proper screening procedures and appropriate PPE. Several of the partners also continued to deliver services through the center using an appointment and outreach system for their clients. In addition, Providence continues to partner with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services in pop-up COVID-19 testing sites for the homeless along Ensign Road and surrounding encampments.

Today, we will be meeting with the remaining partners, a potential partner, and the City of Olympia to discuss the new operational plan. We will need to continue social distancing for the foreseeable future. We need to consider new ways to operate, understanding the reality of a pandemic and knowing the medical, mental health and support needs of the most vulnerable in the community continue to be a top priority.

An appointment/outreach model will be the future of the PCCC. This model will include a number of changes that will allow PCCC to continue providing critical services:

  • Limiting the number of participants into the center
  • Changing the primary entry point and installing a door monitoring system to better monitor access
  • Providing participants access to the hygiene services
  • Making the fenced outside area available for participants utilizing services while also social distancing

The original intent of the center was to be a social service hub. Especially now as our community works to reduce the spread of a deadly virus, it is more important than ever that we advocate for a service model that best meets the immediate needs of the homeless population.

Our Mission compels us to serve the poor and vulnerable. We are fully aware of the magnitude of the homeless crisis and care about these members of our community. Because of our Catholic heritage, we believe in their inherent dignity and worth, and we want to continue to partner with like-minded organizations for a solution that ensures everyone’s safety and well-being, while caring for our community’s homeless.

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