The City of Bellingham has issued a permit for a temporary tent encampment behind City Hall for people experiencing homelessness.
The permit was issued to HomesNOW! to operate Winter Haven, which will provide daily services to up to 20 tents for up to 40 people. The encampment will include bathrooms, showers, drinking water, an outdoor kitchen, garbage and recycling containers, and human and social services. Mayor Kelli Linville brought the proposal forward to Bellingham City Council on Monday Nov. 19, 2018 and Council voted 7-0 to support the administration in working with HomesNOW! to establish the temporary encampment.
The City received 19 written comments during the public comment period on the proposal. No occupancy can occur during a 14-day appeal period, which ends at 5 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2019. If there is no appeal, occupancy may start on Jan. 3, 2019. Water and power have already been installed on the site, and it is anticipated that HomesNOW! will begin staging materials for the encampment shortly after the permit is issued.
“HomesNOW! has been very responsive to the City's requests during this process, and we are hopeful that this will be a successful project,” Planning and Community Development Director Rick Sepler said.
Several required provisions are included in the permit, including:
- A six-foot-tall chain-link fence enclosing the area and controlling access
- Additional lighting for the kitchen and bathrooms
- A code of conduct that prohibits drug and alcohol use and unsafe behavior
- Onsite supervision 24 hours a day provide by a HomesNOW! board member or non-guest volunteer
- No children under the age of 18 can stay overnight unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
- All local, state and federal laws and public health regulations must be met, including no open flames or fires
- HomesNOW!'s guests will be screened through an application process in an off-site location. No on-site screening or queuing will be permitted at the encampment site
- Guests will be permitted after they have completed a warrant check by the Bellingham Police Department
- Registered sex offenders, people who are required to register as a sex offender, and people who have active warrants will be prohibited from the site
- The temporary encampment will include security measures such as public safety video cameras (provided by the City), lighting, fencing and controlled access to the site
- A HomesNOW! board member will be required to meet with City staff at least once a week to identify and resolve issues that may arise at the temporary encampment
The permit is for no more than 90 continuous days, with an end date of April 2, 2019. This date may be extended by the City should the application be appealed; however, in no case will the encampment extend beyond April 15, 2019. The temporary encampment will be subject to immediate closure by the City if the conditions of approval are violated, if there is criminal conduct, or if the chiefs of police or fire believe there is a danger to guests of the encampment or the surrounding community.
The Planning and Community Development Department will provide an update to Bellingham City Council on the encampment in 30-40 days after the first day of occupancy.
For more information, contact the Planning and Community Development Department at 360-778-8300.
The approved permit and Notice of Decision is available on the City's Website: