Some relevant perspective regarding Whatcom County concerns related to 22 North / Noisy Waters Northwest

To access the full set of slides for the presentation “22 North Stabilization Progress Report,” click the image of a slide from a presentation to Whatcom County Council’s Finance and Administrative Services committee on June 21, 2022, provided by representatives of the Opportunity Council

July 13, 2022. Dena Jensen

I was not able to attend the Whatcom County Council meeting last night in order to give public comment, but I did manage to send off an email I’m including in this post, right before the meeting started.

The topic of my email is related to discussions at their last Council and committee meetings on June 21, 2022 about providing funds to the Opportunity Council to take some actions in hopes of improving services to the people of the 22 North permanent supportive housing community. I wasn’t necessarily in favor of all of their proposed actions, but many of them did seem important and helpful. 

Meanwhile, some of our elected officials still seem to be in the dark about important aspects of services required to address the needs of community members who are homeless in order for them to have stable lives and a good quality of life. A number of them seemed to be more accusatory toward service providers rather than seeking to gain understanding and be more supportive of providing critical components to well-being. So keep communicating with officials to help them keep coming into the light. Emails are at the bottom of this post.


Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2022, 05:52:08 PM PDT

Subject: Some relevant perspective regarding County concerns related to 22 North

Dear Whatcom County Council and County Executive Sidhu:

I recently listened to your June 21, 2022 committee and regular Council meeting discussions of a contract between Whatcom County and the Opportunity Council to support operations at the permanent supportive housing facility, 22 North, in the amount of $242,648. I am thankful that you approved funds on that date which are going towards providing a more appropriate level of compensation for Opportunity Council employees providing social services to the residents at 22 North, along with increasing the number of people providing services. 

I am also glad to see that the funding will go towards additional time being made available to provide a greater variety and level of training for staff. Additionally, decreasing case loads so that individual residents at 22 North are receiving more of their case workers’ time and engagement offers more potential for building those relationships that positively impact well-being and quality of life for the whole community at that location.

I wanted to offer some perspective regarding the alarm about the number of case reports and/or 911 calls expressed in a Northwest Citizen article I have read about 22 North, and also by Council Member Byrd at those 6/21/22 meetings. The article had noted the number of incident reports from November 2018 to December 2021 to be nearly 400. 

Last year, I had requested public records of Bellingham Police Department case reports from January through September 2021 for the 1500 block of Cornwall Ave. in downtown Bellingham, which is the location of Lighthouse Mission Ministries’ Base Camp emergency shelter. I found that the average number of case reports is around 20 per month, a rate which would equal 240 case reports per year. For three years that would equal 720 case reports. I have not however, confirmed an actual yearly number of reports for Lighthouse Mission’s emergency shelter over the years. I am attaching a document that provides a listing of some of those records, spanning June through September 2021.  

While Base Camp serves a larger number of community members than 22 North does, it is also important to note that not all of Base Camp’s clients require the level of services of a permanent supportive housing location. In addition, Base Camp has had the impact of a City of Bellingham “protection area” restriction, with people not being able to sit or lie or park within a certain proximity to their facility. Lighthouse Mission representatives had recently asserted in a public meeting that these measures have been very successful from their point of view. Thus, even with those provisions in place, Base Camp was still receiving that level of BPD case reports.

Another thing I wanted to address was Council Member Byrd’s questions about the costs of operating 22 North. An April 28, 2021 Bellingham City Club event, “Chronic Homelessness: a Nationwide Challenge,” was centered around the value of permanent supportive housing in addressing chronic homelessness among people with mental and behavioral health challenges. One of the presenters indicated that there had been a study in the Washington DC area that had determined the cost of a random homeless person on a community to be anywhere from $25,000 to $150,000 per year. That was compared in the presentation to costs for permanent supportive housing ranging from approximately $12,000 to $25,000 a year.

I want to express gratitude to Ann Beck from Human Services for speaking up to explain that Northwest Youth Services was not resistant to participating in the June 21, 2022 meetings or to providing help to 22 North residents as it seemed to be being implied by the County Executive, but that it was their partner at 22 North, the Opportunity Council, which had been invited to the meeting in advance by request of the County Council. It was also good to hear from Ms. Beck about the level of involvement of NWYS throughout the re-stabilization process for 22 North. 

I am hoping that elected officials will be looking to robustly support the existing homeless services providers we have with the resources to effectively provide those services that meet community members’ needs, because this, in turn, can be one element which will help increase confidence in community members that, should they decide to become a new source of services, they will also be supported. The pandemic has exacerbated gaps in services in Whatcom County across the board, so we all need to help improve services from existing providers as well as doing the many positive and proactive things that generate more diverse sources for those services. Thank you to Council Members Galloway, Frazey, and Kershner for their statements reflecting support for such goals and actions.

Lastly, I want to remind you all that as entrance to and continued residence at 22 North become more restrictive, the people who may be homeless with mental and behavioral health issues who are being moved along from being there, or from being in the vicinity of that community, are not going to disappear. They are going somewhere where their challenges still exist and where harm may be being done in less seen corners of the community and where no one is at hand to help. These are people who also urgently need services that meet the needs of theirs that will restore well-being to their lives and to that of our community. 


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA


This email was sent to the following addresses:

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: <>

To: <>; Satpal Sidhu <>; Barry Buchanan <>; Kaylee Galloway <>; Carol Frazey <>; Kathy Kershner <>; Todd Donovan <>; Tyler Byrd <>; Ben Elenbaas <>

Cc: Ann Beck <>; Health <>; <>; <>; <>; <>


Link to 22 North Stabilization Progress Report slide presentation: