Shelter Staff Are This Year’s Heroes

This year’s Housing and Homeless Hero award recipients, and true heroes they are, are all of the local shelter and camp outreach workers for their humanitarian work during this time of COVID. The award is presented by the Homeless Housing Hub, an arm of the Thurston Asset Building Coalition.

Recipients are chosen by their peers and reflect these qualities:

  • Direct housing and homeless service providers.
  • People whose work strengthens the network of providers.
  • People who inspire other individuals engaged in human services.
  • People who by their nature maximize collaboration and minimize competition between agencies in order to better serve those in need.

“While traditionally, the award recognizes a single individual, this year the award will go to eight different service providers for nine different programs as an acknowledgment of the extraordinary efforts by all the providers to meet exceptionally difficult conditions faced by houseless people during the first pandemic in lived memory,” said Derek Harris, chair of the Homeless Housing Hub and Community Youth Services Executive Director.

“Since the moment that COVID hit, the Thurston county homeless crisis response system providers stepped up to the plate,” said Keylee Marineau, Thurston County Housing and Homeless Prevention Coordinator. “Shelter providers and outreach workers had to immediately pivot their way of operating to accommodate ever-shifting guidelines to keep each other and the people they serve safe. Clearly, the shelter and outreach providers center on the needs of those that they serve in desperate and stressful circumstances. Their response should set the standard on of how we do business.”

Recognized this year were the staff at:

  • Community Youth Services
  • Interfaith Works 
  • Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
  • Partners in Prevention Education
  • St Michael Parish
  • The Salvation Army of Olympia
  • Olympia Union Gospel Mission
  • Family Support Center
  • Olympia Mutual Aid Partners

Beginning this year, due to a generous donor, the recipient organization will receive $1,000 to support its work.  This year they drew straws and the award went to St. Michael’s/Sacred Heart in support of a men’s shelter that operates during cold weather months. 

“In regular times, working at a shelter or in homeless camps is hard. During a pandemic, it’s even harder, and our local community of advocates showed their compassion, grit, and tenacity as they have effectively served folks who need them the most since COVID-19 began,” said Thurston County Commission Chair Tye Menser.

“Since the moment that COVID hit, the Thurston county homeless crisis response system providers stepped up to the plate,” said Keylee Marineau, Thurston County Housing and Homeless Prevention Coordinator. “Shelter providers and outreach workers had to immediately pivot their way of operating to accommodate ever-shifting guidelines to keep each other and the people they serve safe. Clearly, the shelter and outreach providers center on the needs of those that they serve in desperate and stressful circumstances. Their response should set the standard on of how we do business.”

The Homeless Housing Hub part of the Thurston Asset Building Coalition Housing and includes representatives from many nonprofits and others in the community. It is designed to help local housing agencies to communicate, coordinate and share best practices.  It works with the community at large, community leaders, business owners, members of faith communities, and elected officials, to discuss and coordinate services to address critical housing issues.

Previous winners are:

  • 2012   Selena Kilmoyer, Interfaith Works – Inaugural Award
  • 2013   Josh Black, Capital Recovery Center,
  • 2014   Meg Martin, IW 2014Capital Recovery Center
  • 2015   Lori Christmas, Family Support Center
  •            Theresa Slusher, Homeless Coordinator – Lifetime Achievement
  • 2016   Stephanie Day, Community Youth Services
  • 2017   Katherine Trahan & Teal Russell, City of Olympia Downtown Ambassadors
  • 2018   Jaycie Osterberg, Quixote Communities
  • 2019   Carrie Graf, Northwest Justice Project
  • Anna Schlecht, City of Olympia Housing Program – Lifetime Achievement
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By Mindy Chambers

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