Here is an update from the Family Support Center of South Sound, on the Smith Building Shelter.

The Family Shelter & Affordable Housing Project

What is the proposed project?
The Family Support Center of South Sound, a 501c3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID: 91-2003828), is rehabilitating the Smith Building located at 837 7th Avenue SE Olympia, WA 98501 from a vacant office building to 6 emergency shelter and 7 permanent affordable housing units for families with children with onsite supportive services. The improvements will include remodeling the interior of the building, utilizing best practice environmental standards, to make it suitable for residential use.

When will the project be completed?
Interior demolition was completed in June 2013. Construction begins November 2013 and is expected by complete in late Spring 2014. The current Family Support Shelter located at First Christian Church will relocate to the new facility and apartments will be leased after project completion.

How will this project impact the neighborhood?
We anticipate minimal impact on the neighborhood during the remodeling phase. Once the project is complete, we believe the Family Shelter and Affordable Housing Project will be an asset to the neighborhood. The Family Support Center has been a good downtown Olympia neighborhood and community leader for more than 20 years with a positive track record of providing quality family support services and shelter in our community. Will there be homeless people living here? This project will only serve homeless and low income families with children under age 18. This project will not serve single men or women. The majority of children we serve are under age 5 years of age. Parents/guardians are typically working families or families working to get back on their feet. There will be supportive services provided on-site by the Family Support Center 24 hours a day, 7 days week, 365 days a year to support families in becoming strong, healthy, and self-sufficient. Management will be on-site to respond to any issues that may arise.

How will this project benefit the community?
Family homelessness and poverty takes a big toll on kids, families, businesses, schools, and tax payers. It overburdens law enforcement, health care, and education systems. It affects local tourism and economic development of downtown. Research shows investing in kids early reduces crime, incarceration, unemployment, and school drop-out rates. Building new affordable housing downtown will help to revitalize the neighborhood, create new jobs, and attract and leverage more state, federal, and private dollars to our community. The effective use of vacant buildings for community benefit has positive environmental, social, and economic benefits. Research indicates that it costs $40,000/year for a community to support one homeless person including shelter, health care visits, law enforcement responses, and other public services. With six new affordable family housing units that will provide permanent housing for 28 parents and kids, the community will have a return on investment of $1.12 million!

Why is this project needed?
There is a common misconception that homelessness is an issue that only pertains to single men and women, but in our community more than 1/3 of the homeless population are young children, with many attending school just down the road from the Smith Building at Madison Elementary and Avanti High School. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, families with children may be the least visible, but are the fastest growing population of homeless nationwide. Poverty and the lack of affordable housing are the principal causes of family homelessness. And as we know, housing shapes lives and elevates communities.

How is this project funded?
The total project cost is 1.9 million dollars. This project is largely publically funded through grants from local, state, and federal sources including the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, the City of Olympia, Thurston County, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The City of Olympia sold the property and building to the Family Support Center through a competitive grant process for $1, paving the way for this dream to come true and making it possible for the Family Support Center to leverage other funding sources to develop this project in our community. The Family Support Center has also conducted fundraising efforts to generate private donor support for this project. We are very grateful to all of the citizens, businesses, elected officials, faith based organization, funders, volunteers, and donors, who support this project.

Who is working on this project?
The project owner is the Family Support Center of South Sound. The project has been designed by visionary local architect, Glenn Wells A.I.A. The Family Support Center has contracted with Common Ground, now Bellwether Housing, an experienced affordable housing development firm out of Seattle, to provide project management and consulting services. Demolition was performed by Olympia-based, Advance Environmental Inc. The General Contractor, Integrity Structures LLC, is an experienced Pacific Northwest construction firm, selected through a competitive bid process. Subcontracts with local companies will create living wage jobs right here in our own community.

How can I help support this project?
The Family Support Center relies on public support, donations, and volunteers. We need your help and welcome your involvement! Please contact Schelli Slaughter, Executive Director, at 360-754-9297 ext. 211 or email [email protected] or visit our website at to learn more.

Who can I talk to if I have questions or concerns?
You may contact Schelli Slaughter, Executive Director, at 360-754-9297 ext. 211 or email [email protected] or contact City of Olympia Community Development and Planning staff at 360-753-8314.

THANK YOU! We look forward to being your friendly, supportive, and responsive nonprofit neighbor!