The City of Bellingham will be applying for a permit to operate a women's overnight winter shelter in a building on the grounds of Civic Stadium, Mayor Kelli Linville announced to City Council on Monday Aug. 26.
The City anticipates that shelter needs this coming winter will exceed the capacity at the Lighthouse Mission Ministries and other local shelter services. In June 2019, the Mayor sent a letter to interested parties seeking agency partners who may have facilities or operational expertise to provide additional shelter capacity and operations this winter. The City did not receive any viable leads for a new winter shelter facility, but in further examining City resources, the City identified the locker room building at Civic Stadium as a possible location. This proposed winter women's shelter is estimated to cost the City $80,000 for staffing, services and supplies. The City has contracted with the Opportunity Council for shelter operations.
“Hundreds of our neighbors are experiencing homelessness in our community, and we need warm, safe places for shelter this coming winter,” Mayor Kelli Linville said. “The primary purpose is to provide a safe place to sleep overnight during the coldest winter months. The Lighthouse Mission is anticipating operating at full capacity, and the Fountain Community Church will no longer be providing 40 beds of women's shelter. We are grateful to have identified a facility and a partner to help us operate a replacement shelter this winter.”
The shelter proposal includes the following:
- This temporary shelter will be operational only during winter months, from late November until the end of February.
- The proposed shelter will operate from approximately 7 p.m. until 7 a.m., seven days per week.
- Shelter guests will not be permitted to reside in the shelter during the day unless there is a weather emergency. Staff and volunteers may arrive earlier or leave later for set-up, cleaning, etc.
- The proposed shelter will house women and/or women with children only.
- The proposed shelter will be managed by professional, trained staff and be overseen by the Opportunity Council. In addition, the shelter will be staffed with the support of community volunteers.
- The proposed shelter has capacity to house a maximum of 40 guests per night.
- All shelter guests will be screened offsite.
Council adopted regulations for temporary shelters in October 2018 (Ordinance 2018-10-019). While temporary encampments in tents, tiny homes and safe parking areas were permitted in public zones, temporary encampments in buildings were only allowed in industrial zones, commercial and industrial areas in Urban Village zones, and commercial zones where hotels and motels are allowed. Many City-owned properties, including Civic Stadium and other parks, include the public designation. Excluding City buildings from this use severely limits the City's ability to provide temporary shelter to people experiencing homelessness when other shelters are full. The Mayor and City staff recommended on Monday that the City Council approve an emergency interim ordinance to allow this use in public zones. City Council adopted the ordinance unanimously.
“The City of Bellingham is committed to ensuring community safety, which includes the safety of our neighborhoods, schools, and homeless residents,” Mayor Linville said. “I want to thank the Opportunity Council for partnering with the City and our staff for finding a creative solution to meet the shelter needs this winter.”
Volunteers will be critical to the success of this program. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities, please send an email to Planning and Community Development at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject “Winter Shelter Volunteer.” Please include your name and contact information, and more information will be sent to you in the coming weeks.
The City is grateful to the Fountain Community Church for sharing their list of volunteers. If you volunteered with Fountain last year, thank you and you will be hearing from City staff.