Attending sweeps of unsheltered residents during pandemic sounds alarms for better solutions / Letter to Whatcom County Council & Bellingham City Council

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Click the graphic of a portion of a recent listing of Bellingham Police Daily Activity displaying four different items regarding Illegal Camp clean ups and notifications to access this information on the COB website

July 9, 2020  Dena Jensen

Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2020, 07:47:20 PM PDT

Subject: A call for providing funding and land for tiny home communities

Dear Whatcom County Council and Bellingham City Council:

I am writing to call on you to support the request of community members and members of HomesNOW! to act quickly to reappropriate funds from things like unauthorized tent site clean-ups toward the creation of tent, tiny home, or cottage communities.

You all have been hearing about the benefits of, and critical need for these types of sheltering options for years now. At your recent meetings, Doug Gustafson did an excellent job reviewing the key benefits of tiny home communities, what HomesNOW was willing to do to help create and facilitate them, and their needs from the County and City of Bellingham for moving forward.

Here are highlights from Doug’s comment: 

  • Publicly sanctioned encampment sites
  • Getting more people off the street and back to their lives
  • HomesNow willing to set up the first new site and use the current site as a template for future sites as a proof of concept
  • Key areas of benefit: health, public safety, and environmental impacts
  • Making it so people have somewhere to go and have people to help them get back on their feet
  • HomesNOW! Is ready and able to make progress
  • Main barrier is land
  • If County/City provides land, then all that would been needed is hookups for water and electricity to support 20 tiny homes per site

Also at your recent meetings, Markis Dee brought forward new information from his observing camp clean-ups/sweeps that help to more strongly underline the need for taking money designated for sweeps and applying it to urgent action to provide more sheltering options, which would include developing tent/tiny home communities. That the policy regarding unauthorized tent encampments, explained by Chief Doll to Markis, was not being translated to officers in the field is of key importance to address. With the Public Market space only being able to shelter around 160 people overnight, we will be soon be thrust into an even more critical situation in the cold weather months, during a pandemic, where the removing of people from unauthorized encampments that do not pose a public health hazard, could more severely threaten the lives of hundreds of people unnecessarily. 

Have you all been made aware of this potential funding source from HUD for non-congregate shelters during the pandemic?

I would assume so, and would like to know if you all are pursuing obtaining such funds.

They could augment other COVID-19-related funding options. Meanwhile, a meaningful and prompt analysis should be performed of where funds for sweeps of encampments that aren’t posing a health threat, or those that wouldn’t pose such a threat if mobile toilets and dumpsters were provided, can be moved to actually sheltering and stabilizing community members who do not have these essential needs met.  

I call on you to act with urgency to address this public health and safety crisis!


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA

This email was sent to the following addresses:

To: <>; Barry Buchanan <>; Todd Donovan <>; Carol Frazey <>; Rud Browne <>; Kathy Kershner <>; Tyler Byrd <>; Ben Elenbaas <>; <>; Hannah E. Stone <>; Hollie A. Huthman <>; Michael W. Lilliquist <>; Daniel C. Hammill <>; Lisa A. Anderson <>; Gene R. Knutson <>; Pinky T. Vargas <>

Cc: Satpal Sidhu <>; <>