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Olympia Homeless Hotel Opens, Homeless Say They’d Rather Stay in the Woods

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Olympia’s Crisis in the Woods

Outsiders think Washington state’s capital would be pristine and well maintained. But for the locals, the homeless and drug crisis has exploded over the past few years. And it’s become more visible and evident than ever, especially along Wheeler Ave. There are dozens of tents still on WSDOT (@wsdot) property.

Unfortunately, tons of trash and drug paraphernalia’s starting to pile up as well. This is also turning into an environmental disaster. Look at all the rubbish in waterways. Some of the homeless are also chopping down fresh trees to make shelters. I’m sure there are some campers in this part of Olympia who would go into the new Lacey homeless hotel. But bottom line, most I have encountered say no. What will the government do about the people who want to be left alone so they can live this lifestyle?

Homeless Hotel Opens

Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) will be at a ribbon cutting at the former Days Inn in Lacey. It was purchased for more than $20 million dollars under the state’s Right of Way Safety Initiative to get homeless people living along I-5 into temporary housing. The first wave of residents are primarily from the Hobby Lobby (@HobbyLobby) encampment near Sleater-Kinney Road in #Olympia.

Many people living in this camp are addicted to fentanyl and other substances. Some were also blamed for thefts and setting fires. Unclear what type of “wrap around” services will be provided to the residents. There’s already concern a lot of these issues will spill into the surrounding neighborhoods near the hotel. At the same time, there are campers who will no doubt benefit from this situation, especially the older people who are finally getting ready to take that next step. The opening of this property was delayed several times due to meth being found in the rooms and sprinkler issues. It will be home to 150 people.

Meanwhile, there are still dozens of homeless encampments along WSDOT properties in Olympia and the rest of #ThurstonCounty. The mini camps along Wheeler Ave are expanding. I also talked to several people living here who refuse to go into hotels. You gotta listen to the reasons. Like I have said all along, “housing first” is warehousing people and only works for certain folks. What it really does is put the homeless crisis out of sight and out of mind so elected officials can say they made a difference. But the root causes like mental illness, drug addiction, and broken relationships are not being properly addressed.

Do not listen to the politicians and academics who have never taken the time to see what’s really happening out here. There is also a growing class of people who want to live a nomadic lifestyle. I have encountered dozens of people like this. They say there are so many free services and generous people who enable them to live off the grid. Once again, these “housing first” one size fits all approaches by the government are unsustainable, yet hundreds of millions of more tax payer dollars will be wasted on these initiatives.

Final Days

Unclear exactly when the Hobby Lobby encampment will be shut down. But I recently spoke to some campers who were excited to take this next step into the hotel.

Major Inferno

Last week, a fire erupted in the Hobby Lobby homeless encampment in #Olympia near Martin Way and Sleater Kinney Rd. #Lacey #ThurstonCounty Courtesy: Thurston County Scanner, News, and Weather Blog

Back in March

This is what the camp looked like a few months ago. I took a deep dive into Olympia’s homeless crisis spiraling out of control on @WSDOT properties. Watch how #Lacey and #Olympia handle the crisis so differently.@GovInslee

Broad Spectrum

This is not just a housing issue as CERTAIN POLITICIANS want you to believe. Some people clearly want to live on the streets this way. Some are entitled and won’t leave without the perfect situation. #Olympia

Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.