Unity Commons

Olympia, Washington

Building a Pathway to a Permanent Home


  • Type

    Affordable Housing
    Supportive Shelter

  • Size

    48,300 SF
    65 Residential Units
    60 Supportive Shelter Beds

  • Sustainability

    Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards

  • Status

    Completed 2022

  • Services


  • Photographer

    Built Work Photography

  • Client

    Low Income Housing Institute
    Interfaith Works

A Partnership for Safety and Shelter

The 2020 Point in Time Count documents 995 individuals experiencing homelessness in Thurston County, which is a 24% increase over 2019. Encore and our team are humbled to bring much needed beds and affordable apartments to the community through our work on Martin Way. The project will offer both temporary shelter and permanent supportive housing through the partnering of two important community organizations. 

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), owner and developer of the project, will operate a 5-story, new construction affordable rental building that includes 65 permanent supportive housing units for people who have experienced homelessness. And by leasing the ground floor, Interfaith Works (IW) will operate a 60-bed, 24/7 enhanced shelter offering temporary accommodations. In partnering, these two agencies take a “both/and” approach to addressing the continued state of emergency of homelessness and affordable housing in Thurston County.

Dignity in Design

Two separate entries serve the shelter and the permanent supportive housing between a common entry court. Showers, laundry and kitchen facilities are provided for the shelter for basic needs; outdoor open space is provided as an amenity to both the housing and the shelter. But housing is only half of the needed help. Case management workers will utilize interview spaces to help visitors and residents gain housing, employment, and other services—offering not just shelter, but also a sense of stability.

Architecturally, the nature of the project presents both a psychological and a programmatic challenge—privacy, openness and dignity are valuable to all people, but they’re especially important to those who have experienced homelessness. We are proud to offer a thoughtful, dignified approach to this building: incorporating high quality materials, a community-driven art installation, and landscaping which will transition visitors between both entrances. We know that arriving at Martin Way will be an important moment, whether someone is moving into a new apartment from the shelter or finding their first warm bed in days.

A Group Effort

We worked closely with the city, community and stakeholders to design a building that elevates its visitors and residents. This is one of two planned buildings with extensive funding requirements and specific timelines, built with Home Fund Levy dollars and funding from partners including Thurston County, the state Housing Trust Fund, and the state Housing Finance Commission through federal tax credits. With many moving parts and partners in play, we worked to help craft the masterplan that will incorporate this building (Phase 1) with a future building (Phase 2) to the south through a development agreement with the City of Olympia.

Program: Shelter: 6 shelter dorms with total of 60 beds; gender neutral bathroom with 13 stalls; staff office, interview room and storage; laundry area; common room + outdoor gathering area. Housing: 12 one-bedroom and 53 studio apartments; lobby and mailroom, residential office, common laundry room and common amenity room; case worker offices, roof deck off of common amenity area.