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Imagine not being able to come home after a long day and unwind in a steamy, soapy shower or bath. Take a moment to consider heading out to a job interview after sleeping outside with no shelter and no way to bathe. Many of us take our daily shower for granted. We do not take time to contemplate the impact inadequate access to running water has on many people in our community.

outside of a South Sound YMCA building
Plum Street YMCA is now welcoming unhoused individuals to use shower facilities. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

The South Sound YMCA, Capital Recovery Center (CRC), and the City of Olympia’s Housing & Homelessness team have spent time thinking about this impact and are teaming up to provide a solution.

“In Thurston County we are currently experiencing a homelessness crisis,” explains Lesli Baker, health and well-being coordinator for the South Sound YMCA. “In 2019, 800 individuals reported experiencing homelessness county-wide, including 394 unsheltered, meaning they slept in a place not meant for human habitation the night before. Some individuals using our Shower Appointment Program are preparing for job interviews. Others share that having access to a shower is a big part of both their recovery and overall mental health.”

Shower appointments are facilitated through, and scheduled by, the YMCA’s valued local partners. For safety and security reasons, a valid ID is required to use the program and standard background checks are run upon entry. This is true for all individuals who utilize local Y facilities. “We realize this is a barrier for some and we are prepared to connect folks who need an ID with organizations in our community ready to help them get one,” says Baker.

Though many assistance programs slowed or even stopped during the pandemic, Baker and her team persevered. “We felt it important to reach out to the Capital Recovery Center when we were ready to reexamine the program post-COVID. We hope to add even more partners as the need arises.”

“Community partnerships like this are so vital to the greater good of individuals that reside in our community,” says Garrett Leonard, the justice outreach specialist at Capital Recovery Center. “Organizations that provide service work are fantastic, but each organization cannot realistically have every resource that is needed. Partnering with other organizations for better coordinated care is the best way to support those in need of services.”

Capital Recovery Center Offers Services to the Homeless

YMCA Staff inside a YMCA in Thurston County
Y staff are here to support our community. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Shower appointments are just one of the many services offered by the Capital Recovery Center. They have two locations that include peer and group counseling for individuals with mental health diagnoses, a low-barrier buprenorphine (suboxone) clinic — a medication to treat opioid use disorder — and an outreach program under the PATH/Pathfinder grant.

Their outreach supports participants with case management services and peer support, explains Leonard. “Navigating community resources can be difficult, especially without Wi-Fi or a phone. We sit down with clients and go through the process step by step,” he adds. “We also assist by offer a small amount of funds for housing.”

Want to help? Consider dropping off toiletry products and new or gently used towels Monday through Friday at either Capital Recovery Center location (1000 Cherry Street SE or 1011 10th Avenue SE). You can also drop off towel donations to the Plum Street YMCA (505 Plum Street) in downtown Olympia.

Make a shower appointment by calling:

  • Capitol Recovery Center 360.357.2582
  • Family Support Center 360.995.3414
  • City of Olympia/Homeless Response 360.790.1986

Get Involved in Ending Homelessness in Olympia

Olympia capitol building
Access to showers can make a world of difference to Olympia’s unhoused population. Photo credit: Connie Bahner

At the end of the day, every little bit helps. “Strong partnerships between government and nonprofit providers are crucial in responding to the homelessness crisis in our community,” shares Kim Kondrat, the city’s homeless response coordinator. “We are working together to make it a safer and cleaner Olympia. We have to start with increasing access to the basic needs of shelter, hygiene, and nutrition so folks can move out of survival mode to take steps to improve their situations.”

“There are many barriers to accessing these basic needs,” Kondrat continues, “and we are so pleased that the YMCA and CRC have joined in this partnership to provide showers to the unhoused population. If there are any other nonprofits or faith organizations who are willing to partner in any capacity, please contact me at kkondrat@ci.olympia.wa.us

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness right now, reach out to the Thurston County’s Coordinated Entry Shelter and Housing Hotline at 844.628.7343. To stay informed with information from the City, consider signing up for their newsletter.

More than just a gym, the South Sound YMCA offers programming and community outreach with a focus on healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility. Within these focus areas they provide a wide range of programs including youth sports, academic support, childcare, and individually focused wellness. Become a partner in this work by donating, volunteering, or applying to join their team today.

Donations are also gladly accepted at Capital Recovery Center for their continuing work overcoming mental health challenges. Their mission is simple, to be a peer-supported sanctuary that fosters recovery, healing, growth and community engagement.

Imagine not being able to come home after a long day and unwind in a steamy, soapy shower or bath. Take a moment to consider heading out to a job interview after sleeping outside with no shelter and no way to bathe. Many of us take this for granted and do not take time to consider the impact inadequate access to running water has on many people in our community.

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