In the spring of 2021, as a part of the regional effort to develop and implement more effective responses to unsheltered homelessness and camp communities, the Regional Housing Council (RHC) supported Thurston County in piloting a program called the Scattered-Site Pilot Project (SSPP). The goal of the SSPP was to pilot an alternative approach to unsheltered homelessness which would provide intensive, on-site case management and site support services to specific camp communities in Olympia, focused on two outcomes:
- In the absence of alternative shelter/housing options, reduce the broad impacts of unsheltered homelessness and camp communities through improving site safety, health and stability in the places where people are sheltering themselves– this is also referred to as “Shelter-in-Place”
- Connect people experiencing unsheltered homelessness with alternative and more appropriate housing and shelter options
In June of 2021, OlyMAP was awarded funding through Thurston County to work towards these outcomes and provide case management and site support services to four specific camp communities, Ensign Road, Nickerson, WSDOT Wheeler, and Deschutes Parkway. Thurston County also contracted with the City of Olympia to provide site maintenance services through the SSPP.
2021-2022 Program Outcomes
60% of participants enrolled in case management services have completed coordinated entry during their time with OlyMAP.
Referrals related to housing, medical and hygiene/basic needs were the most frequently requested from OlyMAP participants. OlyMAP also assisted participants in completing over 280 service applications, including applications related to income/employment, housing, phones and identification documents.
Furthermore, OlyMAP supported 31 people (15%) in connecting to improved shelter and/or permanent housing. Of the 55 people enrolled in intensive case management, 26 (47%) were connected to improved shelter and/or permanent housing.
Challenges and Changes
During the SSPP, the project faced several challenges that impacted fidelity, efficacy and outcomes , including:
- The absence of site control for OlyMAP and residents
- A lack of alignment or clear goals among stakeholders
- Crisis-based, reactionary responses to situations that arose at the scattered sites during the year, including sweeps.
- Less than six months into the pilot, about 50% of the residents OlyMAP was contracted to serve were displaced through the sweeps of the Deschutes Parkway and Upper Ensign camp communities.
Though challenges faced did impact the efficacy of our case management programs, they had a greater impact on the Site Support aspects of the SSPP. Of course, participants and residents of the camps served were the most impacted.
What did Participants Have to Say About OlyMAP Services?
As a part of evaluating our programs and services, OlyMAP completed an end of year survey with 32 residents of Ensign Road and 31 residents of Nickerson/Wheeler. Below is a synopsis of some of the key findings:
New Programs and Additions
- OlyMAP expanded and added two new programs to the SSPP during the first year of operations. In March of 2022, OlyMAP expanded outreach capacity by creating a “Roving Team” to travel to various camps throughout Thurston County, both looking to establish new connections and to try and reconnect with former Deschutes residents, who have been displaced.
- Additionally, OlyMAP added 5 new staff since the beginning of the pilot program and quickly outgrew the available office space. In March 2022, OlyMAP not only relocated to the First Christian Church (FCC) basement (previously Interfaith’s overnight shelter), but OlyMAP also took over providing case management and site-support for the already existing micro-home community located at FCC : New Hope. OlyMAP is very excited to both have a larger space to work from and to work with a community like New Hope where we can utilize our service model to its full potential!
Discussion and Next Steps
** OlyMAP does not currently have the funding available to continue providing services through the Scattered Site Project after June. If no funding is identified, OlyMAP will be temporarily closing down all SSPP operations in July, 2022. **
The outcomes of OlyMAP’s SSPP programs demonstrate both the need for and effectiveness of providing on-site, intensive case management and site support for people living in unsanctioned camp communities. Program outcomes also illustrate how sweeps/displacement impact the efficacy of these services. Lastly, experience and insights gained throughout the course of the pilot highlight the importance of and need for alternative, sanctioned places for people to find long-term shelter or housing that are tailored to the unique needs, strengths and challenges of those living within camp communities.
As we near the end of the pilot, three of the camp communities we are working with are facing the imminent closure of their camps: WSDOT Wheeler, Ensign Road, and Percival Creek. Multiple other camps located along WSDOT right of ways are also facing imminent closure. Though there are potential new shelter and housing options on the horizon that may provide alternatives for people living at these sites, there will most likely not be enough spaces available for everyone facing displacement. Even more, there are concerns among impacted communities and providers about how compatible these options will be with the unique needs and barriers of the populations they are meant to serve.
If able to identify funding to continue providing Scattered Site services post June, OlyMAP will continue providing outreach-based case management and site support services to unsanctioned sites, while simultaneously prioritizing efforts to identify, create and operate alternative sanctioned places for people to live. With OlyMAP’s strong connections to faith communities and experience providing services in hotel settings, OlyMAP sees tiny home, microshelter, and safe parking communities located on church properties, and long-term hotel shelter/housing options as the most likely outcomes of these efforts.
OlyMAP will prioritize identifying and supporting locations that offer site control and which support the provision of shelter/housing appropriate for and compatible with the specific needs of people living in unsanctioned camp communities. Additionally, OlyMAP will be working to increase and improve data collection and community education efforts, as well as pursuing partnerships with entities and stakeholders who share alignment with our service model and a commitment to Best Practices.