Update on previous email related to information and activation for accessible severe weather sheltering / Letter to Whatcom County officials

November 27, 2022 Dena Jensen

Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2022, 07:30:34 PM PST

Subject: Update on previous email related to information and activation for accessible severe weather sheltering

Dear Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom County Council, and Whatcom County Executive Sidhu:

Below my signature line, I am including a copy of the email  I sent you earlier today regarding information on the County website and various social media pages related to severe weather shelters being available. 

I wanted to write again on a related matter having to do with the recording on the night by night shelter hotline, at 360-788-7983.

When I called just now, this was the portion of the recorded message regarding the Whatcom County and Road2Home’s nighttime warming shelter: 

“Should the weather drop below 28 degrees in the evening, Road2Home will have an Emergency overnight warming shelter available for people seeking temporary shelter from severe weather. The hours for the evening warming shelter, when triggered, will be 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., and located at 1355 Civic Field Way in Bellingham Washington. Please stay tuned for another update about this overnight location for tomorrow.“

I am sending this information to you because the Whatcom County Emergency Severe Winter Shelter for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness webpage still does not reflect if the the Civic Field warming shelter location is either open or closed and now the hotline, does not directly say, but seems to indicate that the Civic Field shelter should be open, since the weather forecast on the National Weather Service for tonight has been posted as 28 degrees all day today. Meanwhile I have seen nothing else confirming the Civic Field location will be open.

This hotline information is very important, not only for those community members directly needing shelter who might be able to call the hotline, but also for independent community members doing outreach who have a network of folks without shelter that they are communicating critical information to when they are out delivering supplies or services. 

I call on you to make having accurate recorded hotline information one of the items you prioritize in providing accessible severe weather shelter services. Our community will immensely value and benefit from all efforts you make to provide excellent, accessible, and diverse severe weather sheltering this winter. 


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: dbobena@yahoo.com <dbobena@yahoo.com>

To: Health <health@co.whatcom.wa.us>; council@co.whatcom.wa.us <council@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Todd Donovan <tdonovan@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Kaylee Galloway <kgallowa@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Barry Buchanan <bbuchana@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Carol Frazey <cfrazey@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Kathy Kershner <kkershne@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Tyler Byrd <tbyrd@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Ben Elenbaas <belenbaa@co.whatcom.wa.us>; Satpal Sidhu <ssidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us>

Cc: ccmail@cob.org <ccmail@cob.org>; mayorsoffice@cob.org <mayorsoffice@cob.org>; planning@cob.org <planning@cob.org>; phab@co.whatcom.wa.us <phab@co.whatcom.wa.us>

Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2022, 01:16:46 PM PST

Subject: Information and activation for accessible severe weather sheltering

Dear Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom County Council, and Whatcom County Executive Sidhu:

I wanted to first thank those in the Health Department who have worked to clarifiy dates and statements regarding severe weather shelter status on Whatcom County’s webpage, Emergency Severe Winter Shelter for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

The review date is helpful at the top of the page and the asterisked note,  **Graphic updated when shelter is activated**  is better than not having such a note. I see that right at this time, however, that note isn’t really accurate under the status of the daytime shelter, because the graphic shows the shelter as being “CLOSED” which would mean not activated, and yet it shows the graphic as being updated today. So maybe some more tweaking on either the dates or the notes related to the dates can happen to make info as accurate as possible.

Additionally, right now the webpage shows the status of the Ferndale nighttime shelter as being open but does not provide any information about whether the Whatcom County Severe Weather shelter is open or closed. I am hoping that you all will be supplying the Whatcom County overnight shelter status imminently. 

Today, I checked Whatcom County’s severe weather shelter webpage, plus the Facebook pages for Whatcom County Government, Whatcom County Health, and Road2Home. There is no notification of either upcoming shelter availability for this week or a call for volunteers (the last request for volunteers is on the Road2Home FB page from November 15.) The night by night shelter hotline states that neither the daytime (Bellingham at the library on Lottie) nor nighttime (Whatcom at Civic Field) severe weather shelters will be activated based on “the forecast for this week.”

Here is the link to the National Weather Service where you can do a search to find the Bellingham, WA forecast which is being used to determine shelter activation. A 28° low is forecast starting tonight and lower lows during the week. https://www.weather.gov

Whatcom County is supposed to be giving a 24-48 hour notice when severe weather shelters are open, which is very short notice for folks who are struggling living outdoors, but it still can be life-saving if the notification is effective in reaching those that need that notification. The information currently available at the sources I checked makes it appear that no shelter will be available at Civic Field tonight 11/27. That would be one more night of a 28 degree temp (if it makes it to that low or below) to add to the 6 other nights of below 28 degree low temperatures that severe weather was not offered by Whatcom County. In the case of the other 6 nights those low temps were never forecast in advance. In the case of tonight, 28 degrees has been forecast. 

I continue to urge all parties working together on severe weather sheltering to urgently take action to remove the barriers to activating easily accessible severe weather shelter for community members left with no option but to sleep outside in freezing temperatures, especially for those who are concentrated in Bellingham where such shelter is far too frequently not available. When Whatcom County and Bellingham offer severe weather shetering, all that effort of organizing and preparing should not be allowed to be in vain. People need to be served by the shelters in order for the shelters to save lives and improve public safety, and for them to reduce suffering and the many types of crises in our community that emanates from it. 


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA