Bellingham’s Homeless Update

by Lynnette Allen

The recent full moon and eclipse seemed auspicious, especially with the world happenings right now and it being the beginning of a new decade and an election year. Also rain, snow and threateningly cold temperatures this week and next, in the middle of January 2020. So many volunteers are getting homeless people to the various extreme weather shelters and volunteering shifts at them.

Getting the word out to homeless people about the availability of these shelters has proved difficult, and transporting people to where they must first sign up and also to the shelters has made it complicated for the volunteers.

Here Are the Notifications
 Family Shelter: Garden St. United Methodist Church will be offering space for families with children to stay the night. To check in before 4:00 p.m. on a weekday, visit the Opportunity Council at 1111 Cornwall Avenue. To check in after-hours or on a weekend, call 360-593-7500 to find out if space is available.

 CTK Adult Men’s Shelter: Christ the King Church (CTK) will operate a shelter for adult men on January 12, 13 and 14. Guests must check in for this shelter by 6:30 p.m. at the “Jubilee Station” located near the Lighthouse Mission at 1012 W Holly Street. Guests will be transported to the shelter, located at CTK’s Norway Hall.

Quite a few mainstay volunteers just work on this nonstop, and these are mostly the ones that have been dedicated to this work for the past two winters. Many more have joined from numerous organizations and there are more projects and nonprofits in the planning stages to address the increasing need for shelter, temporary and longer-term housing, and services.

Last winter was so difficult and a lot has been done since then to be ready for this winter. Besides speaking up at City Council and County Council meetings, citizens, volunteers, and Unity Village residents have called for more collaboration of agencies, nonprofits, churches, and ministries to help the growing homeless population.

To that end, the local government has had the HSW (Homeless Strategies Workgroup) in place, and, to my mind, it has helped us all get together — at least some better than before.

Tiny House Community
Homes Now, Not Later has a thriving Tiny House community near the Water Treatment Facility in Fairhaven. As they have gone through lots of growing and stabilizing efforts, the residents and lead volunteers have found balance and are moving forward. They are asking for some extended time, beyond April, to get prepared and ready so that the next move will be easier to manage this time.

Doug Gustafson II who is the present president of the board at HomesNOW! Not Later was one of four local organization’s leaders who spoke at the recent Bellingham Tonight event at the Mt. Baker Theatre. He was eloquent in describing HomesNow’s vision and accomplishments.

A nonprofit with no paid staff, HomesNow! has created a new viable Housing First model supported by donations, volunteers, and formerly unsheltered residents that has been accepted and now joined by volunteers from the three neighborhoods where they have had successful temporary communities in Bellingham. HomesNow neighbors and friends are signing a petition to help them in getting an extension and finding their next neighborhood for their community.

And now we have some new City Council and County Council members, mayor and County Executive. Now that we’ve experienced so much more is possible, we shall see what their vision for this effort — which has become a movement — will bring.

Lynnette Allen went to the University of Iowa and then to Mills College. Lynnette taught physical education and modern dance and specialized in movement therapy. Later, she studied nonviolent communication. Lynnette loves to teach and write — and her favorite subject is consciousness. She’s a dedicated human rights activist, and recently she’s enjoyed volunteering with Homes NOW!.

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