Whether in the mountains or a temple, in a circle of dancers or in a silent meditation, humans look to experiences which connect them with others, with themselves, with the world, and with the transcendent. The feeling of awe while looking at a starry night sky is the same today as it was for our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, long before any of the religions and wisdom traditions we recognize today were even close to emerging. Yet even though many of the religions we name and know today are fairly young in the long arc of human history, the effect of their presence in our lives and culture is enormous.
One of the ways we often feel the presence of religion and spirituality in our lives and culture is through identity. "I'm a Muslim", or, "I'm an Atheist", or, "I'm a Humanist", and the list goes on. While belonging and identity offer many benefits and strengths, we are also in a time when labels often precede relationship, and the results of such a sequence carries a high risk.
Interfaith relations is the commitment to prioritizing relationships before labels. The interfaith programming at Interfaith Works seeks to build understanding and cooperation between and among the diverse religious and spiritual communities of Thurston County as we work together for social justice and peace. We do this work through acts of service, development of programs that seek social change, and fostering moments of interfaith learning and sharing. As we continue on know that YOU are invited to join us in this work! Please be in touch and feel free to contact us with any inquiries, comments, or suggestions.
Interfaith Works is happy to announce that Corey Passons has joined the IW team as the new Program Manager for Interfaith Relations. This position will foster IW’s member faith community coalition and provide leadership within IW’s Program Council. We are very excited to welcome him on board!
I am thrilled to begin working with IW and contribute to the ongoing mission and outreach of the organization. There is so much to be gained when we work together toward a common goal and a common good. My hope and intention is to help facilitate this shared work as we all pursue a more just world, together.
Corey graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry in 2016 and immediately began work here in Olympia with Community for Interfaith Celebration in the capacity of Interfaith Minister (a position that he will maintain as he works with IW).
Interfaith Works Response
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Interfaith Works is taking many steps to keep our shelter guests, staff, and entire community safe. Please read more about all the ways we are responding and how you can help.
We are gearing up to open overflow shelter space in the next week or so, and we want to make sure our community has information about what that will look like.
We are partnering with the City of Olympia to open the existing building at 2828 Martin Way to help our community accommodate our shelter guests who would otherwise be displaced due to social distancing requirements, as well as prioritizing other people who are at higher risk of negative outcomes from the contraction of COVID-19. We believe the building can hold up to 30 people and will aim to have that full over the course of the next two weeks.
Safety and behavior expectations for all of our homeless services programs will be required at this location as well.
This is a temporary need that will last as long as social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements remain in place. We are monitoring the changing landscape every day, and when social distancing requirements begin to soften, we will transition back to normal operations at our downtown location.
This interim use of the existing building does not change the plans of developing a new 60-bed shelter and 65 apartments of supported housing. Construction for this new facility is set to begin in the fall and be completed in late 2021.
Olympia Converts Martin Way Building Into Emergency Homeless Shelter
Meg Martin will become Executive Director of the Olympia-based Interfaith Works organization starting January 1, 2020. Martin, who currently oversees the organization’s Homeless Services programs for unhoused people through the Nightly Shelter, Community Care Center and Navigation Team programs, joined Interfaith Works in 2013. She helped to transform one of Interfaith Works longest standing programs – the seasonal rotating women’s shelter — into the full breadth of safety net services offered today.
She takes over at a time when the organization is preparing to grow considerably by building a 24/7 shelter facility below 65 apartments that will provide permanent supportive housing. This exciting development is in partnership with the City of Olympia, Thurston County, the State of Washington, and the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.
Board President Catherine Carmel
Martin is a Certified Peer Counselor and a Social Worker. She earned her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington, Tacoma in 2013. Building from decades of dedicated volunteerism from the faith communities, she founded the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter program in 2014 with two other dedicated street outreach workers – Cassie Burke and Jefferson Doyle. Under her innovative leadership the Homeless Services program has grown significantly and positioned Interfaith Works as a trusted leader in our community response to the national crisis of homelessness.
I am honored to have the opportunity to build from the rich history of so many who have gone before me and who have taught me so much.
“I am excited to continue deepening and broadening relationships throughout all parts of our community – faith traditions of all kinds, business, service groups, tribal partnerships, service provider and community-based organizations, neighborhood associations, governmental partnerships and more. I love this community so much, and can’t wait to serve in this new capacity," said Meg Martin.
Interfaith Works is a non-profit, social justice coalition made up of over 30 diverse faith traditions. The organization brings the human and financial resources of faith communities together with business and government agencies to benefit those in need. Interfaith Works will not discriminate on the basis of ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, race, physical ability, religion or religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to actively participate in a religious practice.
It was an historic turning point in the development of homeless services in our community, but there was precious little time to dwell on the Big Picture –the everyday needs of the shelter and guests demanded tremendous energy and flexibility from our managers, support staff, volunteers, and the guests too. The creativity and resilience of our shelter staff is the big untold story of this project, and this community owes them more than can ever be paid.
Through many high points and low points, the shelter has done its work of meeting people where they are, making meaningful connections and saving lives. We dove headlong into the effort to open a downtown Warming Center and then the Community Care Center in partnership with Providence Health & Services and other local service providers (which became a reality on September 13).
The whole tone and direction of our civic conversation around homelessness and affordable housing has changed in large part due to this shelter program. Compassion is alive and well, a real force shaping our public policies around homelessness and the social safety net. That alone is worth appreciating and celebrating. But there is so much more work ahead. The shelter will open at 5:00 today, as always. Our funding gap is big enough to drive a truck through. Winter is approaching. The unmet need for shelter and permanent supportive housing is daunting. Rental costs in Thurston County are rising at alarming rates, sending more people over the edge into homelessness.
We see the challenges and know they will be hard to surmount. But we also know we are on the right track, thanks to the success we’ve seen and the great community support we’ve enjoyed.
Editorial, Sept 7, 2017
A decision this week by Interfaith Works to jettison its plan for a winter warming center for Olympia-area homeless people was a tough decision, and a disappointment. But it was a pragmatic call by a group that has truly been stepping up to face and solve South Sound’s homelessness troubles when others have not… Even so, our community still needs a permanent, around-the-clock shelter. Leaders across our county need to regroup and look carefully at how to support 24-hour shelter options advocated by Interfaith Works, including a warming center for Thurston County.
Sept 30, 2017
[Olympia police chief Ronnie] Roberts said, “We can’t turn our back on that.” … When [Chief Roberts] drives through Olympia on his way to work and sees people on the streets, he doesn’t view it as a police problem. “We have a community in need,” Roberts said. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of the problem. It’s going to take far more than law enforcement. It’s going to take the business community, the city, the county, the state and social service providers.
Editorial, November 10, 2015 — Two Years Ago
Homeless shelter shows progress :Two years ago, there was a roaring controversy about locating a shelter for homeless adults in downtown Olympia. A year ago, the shelter finally opened in First Christian Church at Seventh and Franklin. To the surprise of some of its opponents, nothing bad has happened; to the great relief of its guests, a great deal of good has.
by Danny Kadden, Executive Director
Corey Passons, MDiv.
Interfaith Relations Program Manager
Meg Martin, MSW, CPC