The former Days Inn motel along Interstate 5 in Lacey, which was acquired months ago by the Low Income Housing Institute, is set to open its doors to the area homeless community this month, a Lacey City Council member announced Thursday.
Council member Carolyn Cox, who serves on the Regional Housing Council, said the motel will open as an enhanced shelter June 19, and its first tenants will be those living in homeless encampments along I-5, including those living at a growing encampment on state Department of Transportation property near Sleater Kinney Road.
The acquisition of the motel at Marvin Road and I-5 and its conversion into the Maple Court enhanced shelter is a partnership with LIHI, the state Department of Commerce, state Department of Transportation, Thurston County and the city of Lacey, The Olympian has reported.
Funding for the purchase came from the state’s Right-of-Way program, which aims to move those living in public spaces along the freeway into housing. Thurston County received $37 million for the program, of which $20 million was earmarked for the hotel acquisition and site setup. An additional $4 million will be used for two years of site operations, The Olympian reported.
Cox’s announcement was well-timed because during public comment at the Thursday Lacey City Council meeting a resident got up and complained about the encampments near the Hobby Lobby store in Olympia.
Michael Botello said his girlfriend works nights at the store and alleged that she has been assaulted twice and that a man tried to attack her with a screw driver after she caught him stealing.
“What is being done about the camp there?” he asked.
Mayor Andy Ryder, who said the council has received “a ton of email” about the encampments in that area, explained they occupy WSDOT property in Olympia.
The man replied: “So it’s a city of Olympia problem?”
It’s not an Olympia problem, it’s a problem for all of us, Ryder said.
“There is some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ryder, referring to the impending opening of the Maple Court shelter.
He also pointed out that residents are often confused about jurisdictions in that area because of the confusing Lacey and Olympia city boundaries.
For example, Martin Way, between Sleater Kinney Road and College Street, is in Olympia, Ryder said.
The council also learned Thursday that there is talk of the Regional Housing Council, now an advisory body to the Thurston County Commission, becoming an independent agency.
Ryder asked Cox about where the housing council stands in terms of hiring its own executive director and having independent staff.
Cox and interim City Manager Rick Walk said that the proposal is just at the conversation stage.