Our mission is to support and protect the rights of tenants and unhoused or underhoused people, to fight systems of oppression and displacement, and to work towards de-criminalizing homelessness and poverty by centering the voices of tenants, unhoused, and underhoused people through community organizing, education, direct action, and advocacy.
Just Housing Olympia was created in May of 2016. Started by two street outreach coordinators, our grassroots advocacy group was created with the goal of creating an avenue for people who have experienced houselessness to be able to advocate for their own needs and rights. JHO was started with the intention of being dedicated to advocacy around long-term solutions to houselessness, like improved tenant rights and the creation of more affordable and supportive housing. However, through centering the voices and needs of those who were houseless or who had experienced houselessness, it quickly became clear that JHO would need to focus its resources and energies on advocating for the most immediate and urgent survival needs of houseless people—like legal places to rest and sleep, places to go to the bathroom, and de-criminalizing homelessness locally.
For our first few years, our group, made up of housed and unhoused community members, was dedicated to our #Legalize Survival campaign, advocating for the rights of unhoused people and the de-criminalization of homelessness. In 2018, we expanded our scope of work and began providing direct health, safety, and self-governance support to encampments in Thurston County. This expansion was inspired by our advocacy work to push local governments to take a Shelter in Place approach to encampments, as opposed to the enforcement and whack-a-mole approach of sweeps and criminalization policies. Between 2018-2020, we continued to provide these supports while relying on only community volunteers and donations.
As the number of people experiencing homelessness and living unsheltered continued to grow, so too did the need for encampment support services like garbage removal, laundry, supplies, and self-governance support. It eventually became clear that, in order to sustain and continue expanding encampment support programs, sources of funding and support outside of community donations would be needed—resources that JHO could not qualify for as a grassroots non-incorporated organization. With this in mind, we made the decision to divide and create a new, incorporated and fiscally sponsored organization—Olympia Mutual Aid Partners —that would adopt and carry on the encampment support work previously carried out by us.
While we continue to support and stand behind the work that groups like Olympia Mutual Aid Partners carry out, we are no longer a group that provides direct survival encampment support.
We are once again a group dedicated entirely to advocacy, both in support of unsheltered and unstably housed people, but also in support of tenants and renters of our community.