When Meg Martin first moved to Olympia, Washington from Montana in 2007, she was recovering from a drug addiction and looking to start a new life. In Olympia, she threw herself into outreach work. She volunteered for a program that uses bicycles to deliver clean needles to people on the street who use injection drugs.
Night after night, she’d encounter people who were homeless. Because these men and women were actively using drugs, they were not eligible to stay in area shelters.
“How can anyone get stable if they don’t have their basic needs met? It’s not a realistic expectation. We need to get people off the streets,” Meg says.
Meg saw a need, and with the help of friends Cassie Burke and Jefferson Doyle, pursued a plan to meet it. But their plan for a new shelter in Olympia quickly met opposition: Even in progressive Olympia, few wanted the shelter in their neighborhoods.
Despite numerous obstacles, and many people telling her “no,” Meg opened up the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter in the basement of an old church.
The shelter is considered "low barrier," meaning men and women don't get turned away because they struggle with mental illness or addiction. They welcome pets, and allow couples to spend the night together.
In this interview with Sound Effect’s Gabriel Spitzer, Meg Martin tells the story of how she won over some of her harshest critics, and about the responsibility she has to those in need.