Part One / Anatomy of a shutdown: How Whatcom officials pursued silencing one member of the Homeless Strategies Workgroup

May 15, 2021 by Dena Jensen, with significant contributions from Sandy Robson

[Author’s note: In regard to the headline, officials might have hoped to silence a few more voices, as well, but I will stick to the public records that Sandy Robson recently received from Whatcom County to let readers decide. For context, I want folks to know that I have been following Whatcom County’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup meetings since the summer of 2019 and that I am familiar with the person who was the target of County officials’ silencing efforts.

I have interacted through Facebook with Markis Stidham – Markis Dee is his profile name – over the past few years regarding civil rights and social justice issues. Additionally, Stidham met with Riveters Collective Justice System Committee, of which I am a member, on a couple of occasions. I remember seeing him twice in public, in years past, at Dignity Vigils in front of Bellingham City Hall, and shook his hand once, although I don’t think he knew who I was at the time. Stidham read a public comment of mine at a Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting on August 23, 2019.]

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Base Camp, or sweeps: City used Lighthouse Mission sheltering capacity to limit their emergency options last season

May 14, 2021 Dena Jensen

In public records obtained from the City of Bellingham, emails revealed that leading up to the 2020/2021 winter season, City Planning and Development staff told emergency winter shelter providers, with whom they had partnered the previous cold weather season, that the City would not be operating or funding such operations in the coming season.

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Sweep the Sweeps; House, Serve, and Shelter / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the screen shot of text from the Bellingham City Club webpage describing the April 28, 2021 event, Chronic Homelessness: A Nationwide Challenge to view a web-based version of this information

April 29, 2021 Dena Jensen

Yesterday I attended Bellingham City Club’s online event, “Chronic Homelessness: A Nationwide Challenge.” This was Wednesday, April 28, the same day that Bellingham Police Department’s homeless encampment cleanup coordinator and fellow officers were out to clean up the “remainder,” as the coordinator described it, of homeless encampments at Maritime Heritage Park. (The ACLU equates camp cleanups and camp sweeps.) Some other encampment locations had been tagged to be vacated or were given instruction to bring all possessions off the streets and into parked RVs. 

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Sweep of unsheltered community members from Port of Bellingham property / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the still frame picturing Port Commissioner Ken Bell at his desk from a YouTube video of the Port of Belliingham’s March 16, 2021 Port Commission meeting to access the final public comment period of the meeting shortly before the meeting adjourned

March 21, 2021 Dena Jensen

It seems that the Port of Bellingham would benefit from hearing more from all of us here in Whatcom County about the motivations for our desire of them to help contribute solutions to our friends and neighbors sleeping outside and getting swept by police officers in Bellingham and at WWU.  Apparently they were also swept from Port of Bellingham property at Laurel and Cornwall on the day that COB swept folks from Geri Field. Contact information is at the bottom fo this post. 

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Thoughts on the Camp 210 Sweep / Commentary by Kai Rapaport

Police presence at Camp 210 Sweep. Photo Credit: Kai Rapaport

February 5, 2021 Kai Rapaport

[Author’s Note: I am not a representative of Camp 210, but a concerned community member and volunteer; mistakes are my own]

Dear Bellingham,

This message is a plea to our Mayor Fleetwood to stop the sweep of our houseless neighbors at Camp 210, in their new location by Puget and Fraser near Civic field Friday at 4pm. This article is also an invitation to the community to support our houseless neighbors in voicing their concerns about this sweep. 

I understand this message is long so I can summarize it now:

Please contact your Mayor, principally; your health department; the parks department; your City Councilmembers; and encourage your organizations to denounce this sweep. Sweeps do not solve houselessness, they only move our houseless neighbors.

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RE winter emergency sheltering efforts in Whatcom County prior to the 2020 cold weather season

Click the graphic to access a recording of YouTube video of the March 30, 2020 Whatcom County Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting. This was the first virtual meeting of the workgroup after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States

The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County Government have been increasingly focused since the cold weather season has hit, on putting out information about their housing and sheltering efforts. There is no doubt that they have been making efforts to create low income housing and to sustain and enhance some sheltering solutions. But a significant challenge being faced right now by our community is a failure of our government agencies to respond effectively to hostile weather emergency sheltering needs, especially during a pandemic. 

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Whatcom County Council continues discussion of racism as a public health crisis / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the graphic to access video of the October 27, 2020 Whatcom County Council Meeting. The discussion of racism as a public health crisis begins at about 04:14:30 on the video

November 1, 2020 Dena Jensen

For those who didn’t get to listen to the discussion of the resolution Affirming Racism is a Public Health Crisis at the October 27, 2020 Whatcom County Council meeting, here is a little information on that.

First, here are some details I am aware of because my partner, Sandy Robson, called Whatcom County staff to find out why notice of discussion of the resolution seemed to not be available on the County website.

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Contact Whatcom County Council to Affirm Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Screenshot of a Power Point presentation slide shown at the 10:45 a.m., 10/06/20, Whatcom County Council meeting as the Health Board meeting

October 25, 2020 Dena Jensen

‼️Heads up‼️ regarding a resolution “Affirming Racism is a Public Health Crisis.”

This is a quick call to action to contact the Whatcom County Council to support the Whatcom County Public Health Advisory Board resolution. The County Council was supposed to discuss/vote on the resolution Affirming Racism is a Public Health Crisis in one of their committees by October 27, which is why we all should contact them ASAP.

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Fall, wind, and rain are here; legal homeless camping or emergency shelters aren’t

Click the graphic of the agenda for the 9/25/2020 Homeless Strategies Workgroup (HSW) meeting to access the HSW meeting materials page on the Whatcom County website

September 24, 2020 Dena Jensen

Fall, wind, and rain are here. Late-November, (which is the last time severe weather shelters were offered) is two months away. At Friday’s 1:30 p.m. Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting, 5 minutes are scheduled for discussing Winter Shelter (temporary and emergency) and 5 minutes are scheduled for discussing Encampment clean-up/sweeps. How are these critical topics not a priority topic when people who are unsheltered are in positions -right now – to have their tarps and tents either blow away or be flooded, and freezing temps are weeks away? 

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