Holiday bell ringers with cherry red buckets may be the limit of your knowledge about The Salvation Army. That is a snippet of the big picture of the year-round good this organization does right here in Thurston County. The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope is now providing transitional housing especially geared for seniors and vets experiencing homelessness. These two groups are both in great need of housing support services. Captain Jarod Arnold, who oversees the county’s programs, brings his enthusiasm and dedication to the Center of Hope.

The simple outside of the the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope does not let you see into the transformational work being done by everyone inside. Photo courtesy: Salvation Army

In the past, the building in downtown Olympia has been used as a transitional rehab center and night shelter. Last October the Salvation Army decided to focus its resources to make the greatest impact. Since that time the demographics have been shifted to seniors and vets. There are 25 adult men and women who live at the Center of Hope. “We are not into changing sheets, we are into changing lives,” says Captain Arnold.

Importantly, the residents team up with a case worker. The goal is to identify the barriers that have blocked or are blocking permanent housing. There can be a multitude of reasons. Sometimes barriers are not so hard to correct. If a veteran cannot produce proper documents, he or she cannot receive benefits from the government that may be due. Case workers can connect resources and people to obtain the needed paperwork. It is all about incremental movement.

Initially when a person arrives, he or she is given a few days to literally rest and sleep. Captain Arnold pointed out that many people living on the street sleep in the day and stay awake at night for safety concerns. Living unsheltered can be exhausting. Time for quiet and rest are first steps.

The facility is equipped with showers, washing machines and beds. Hygiene products such as soap and shampoo are provided along with bedding. Some have been donated and some have been purchased in bulk. The simple routines many of us take for granted like getting up in the morning, making our bed, and bathing are new ways of being for previously unsheltered individuals. Being in a clean, safe, place with amenities at hand offers hope and dignity.

The Salvation Army’s building downtown has been used to support many in the transitions of their lives. The focus now is to shelter vets and seniors experiencing homelessness. Photo courtesy: Salvation Army

“There are two ways to define success,” explains Captain Arnold. “People go into sustainable housing or we get them into another situation to meet their needs.” Every person is different with a different story. Case workers listen. The Center of Hope is not a drug recovery center, but someone may get to the Center and ultimately find readiness to deal with that and then move to a rehabilitation facility. Other barriers may involve getting a bank account, proper identification or other assistance or training.

“Not everyone is ready for a program,” notes Captain Arnold. “We don’t force anything. We provide tools.” There is a level of accountability for people at The Center of Hope which is supported by the case workers. “We are faith based,” adds Captain Arnold, but attending church or adhering to specific doctrine is not part of the program. There is no discrimination of any kind. There is a church with services at 11 a.m. with COVID restrictions in place. There is also live streaming.

The Center of Hope is staffed 24 hours a day. Breakfast is served to residents. Community lunch and dinner are available to people who do not reside there. Lunch time is from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and dinner is from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Due to COVID restrictions, these meals are not taken inside. Catholic Community Services prepares and serves these meals, providing 125 per day. Some extra meals are taken to camps. Many volunteers in our community are consistently involved to keep meals happening every day of the year.

A consistent bed to sleep in each night provides a foundation to move ahead. The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope supports women and men every day. Photo courtesy: Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is an international nonprofit organization that began in London in 1865. The organization serves in 130 countries around the world and assists approximately 23 million people in the United States on an annual basis. Captain Arnold and his team serve all of Thurston County. The intention is to expand physical resources into more areas of Thurston County, outside of Olympia.

“There is no more joy I can find than shaking the hand (or right now tapping an elbow) as a person moves to the next location, new environment of success,” says Captain Arnold. The Center of Hope plays an instrumental role in people’s path to a secure home.

And the bell ringing – that’s very important. “Every penny goes into services of this community,” assures Captain Arnold.

You can find more information about The Salvation Army and the many programs on the website.

Salvation Army
1505 4th E, Olympia


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