As youth homelessness continues, Community Youth Services (CYS) in downtown Olympia opened a 10-bed overnight shelter for youth ages 18-21 on Feb. 24.
During the day, youth ages 18-21 can sign up at Rosie’s Place to come back at 9 p.m. for an overnight stay, said Shogren. There is a 10-bed capacity for the shelter which are distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. Rosie’s Place is rearranged in the evening to accommodate beds for youth who are staying overnight, said Shogren.
Rosie’s Place is CYS’s onsite daytime drop-in center for youth ages 12-21 that offers food, free clothing, computer use, hygiene products, a library, and a place to hang out.
According to the 2012 Thurston County Homeless Census, 34 percent of homeless individuals in Thurston County are under 21. The survey also found that 11 percent of The Evergreen State College students reported being homeless, with another 15 percent reporting being at risk for homelessness.
South Puget Sound Community College student Ryann James said she has experienced homelessness in the past, and felt a shelter for youth was very positive. She said when someone is homeless they need help, but it should not be handed to them, because they will not advance in their life that way.
James said she feels youth often run away from home and come to loiter and be unproductive in Olympia, and if people indefinitely give homeless individuals a place to stay they will not do anything else. James said it is a complicated situation for her since she feels for both sides, homeless and not.
SPSCC student Ricky Osborne said he feels it is good for homeless youth to have a shelter where they are surrounded by people their own age and will not feel uncomfortable.
“I think it’s a great thing as long as kids do not become dependent on it,” said Osborne.
The funding for the shelter came from the HOME Consortium, an advisory board that regulates funding for Thurston County housing programs, said CYS Director of Rosie’s Place, Dae Shogren. She said the shelter will pilot until the end of May. She said CYS is trying to get funding to keep the shelter open year round.
The shelter was open four nights a week for the first few months and started being open seven days a week April 14. Youth who stay at the shelter are given a healthy snack in the evening and morning, said Shogren.
Shogren said they have not had issues with conflict between individuals staying in the shelter. She said the people who have stayed at the shelter have been respectful. Homeless youth are often stereotyped in a bad light despite the fact they are respectful and kind individuals, she said.
CYS also runs a shelter for youth ages 12-17 called Haven House. Youth who stay at Haven House are referred by social workers, law enforcement, or CYS foster care, said Shogren.
Rosie’s Place serves between 40-45 individuals a day, an increase from 30-35 individuals only a few years ago said Shogren. The night shelter has served both high school and college students for overnight stays, she said.
Shogren said although there are not volunteer opportunities at this time, CYS can always use donations of hygiene products and clothing for young adults.