On December 21, 2021 Thurston County declared a hazardous weather event
for December 25, 2021 through January 1, 2022 due to the forecasted snow and frigid temperatures, as recommended by the Hazardous Weather Task Force (HWTF).
The HWTF is comprised of county, city, and local advocacy and non-profit organizations working together to address harsh weather conditions and its effects on vulnerable unsheltered populations. The HWTF developed the hazardous weather response model to be enacted during extremely cold or hazardous weather conditions.
During a hazardous weather event, as declared by the director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, organizations take special measures to keep people who are homeless safe by expanding shelter services to accommodate the increased need. In addition, the HWTF is empowered to distribute shelter-in-place supplies, such as blankets and water, to those in the homeless community who are unable to leave their location.
During the declared HWE from 12/25/21-1/1/22 the following steps were taken:
- Shelter-in-place activities occurred pre-emptively and during the hazardous weather event to include the distribution of survival items.
- Due to the sweep of the Deschutes encampment on December 8, upwards of 80 houseless individuals were sheltered in a hotel during this response and continue to be sheltered during the cold weather season.
- The City of Olympia provided the old Fire House in downtown Olympia for 12 hours a day (8am-8pm) December 25 through 31, 2021 serving an average of 124 people per day.
- Interfaith Works provided staffing at the day center from 3pm-8pm on December 25 and then 12 hours a day for the remainder of the warming center mentioned above.
- Interfaith Works, in partnership with First Christian Church, provided shelter from 8pm-8am for up to 27 people from the night of December 25, 2021 through January 1, 2022, averaging 24 houseless people per night
“This is one of the most robust responses we have ever had in the county,” said Keylee Marineau, Homeless Prevention and Affordable Housing Coordinator. “We served more houseless individuals, provided more shelter-in-place survival gear, and sheltered more individuals than we have during any other event.”
Marineau added, “The coordination during this event with the jurisdictions and service providers is something we must strive for during any hazardous weather event in the future. The coordination allows for a quicker response and saves lives of some of our most vulnerable residents.”
To put this into perspective, during the snow and hazardous weather event declare February 11, through February 14, 2021, the HWTF was only able to provide three nights of emergency overnight shelter for up to 25 people, and offered a warming center from 10am-3pm for four days. Shelter capacity was not expanded due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements in shelters. The HWTF coordinated shelter-in-place activities as well, including distributing survival gear.
Meg Martin, Interfaith Works, ensures clean and sanatized tables at warming shelter
By the numbers:
Staffing hours during event for warming center and overnight shelter:
- Interfaith Works – 470
- Olympia Mutual Aid Partners (OlyMap) - 115 (estimated)
Visitors sheltered during event at Interfaith Works:
- 12/25: daytime 45, overnight 12
- 12/26: daytime 112, overnight 22
- 12/27: daytime 134, overnight 27
- 12/28: daytime 152, overnight 28
- 12/29: daytime 151, overnight 27
- 12/30: daytime 148, overnight 27
- 12/31: daytime 147, overnight 27
- 1/1: overnight 27