No room at the inn: current homeless strategies in Whatcom County / Noisy Waters Northwest

February 13, 2022 Dena Jensen

What’s encouraging

Three years have passed since the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County governments held a joint discussion that broached the subject of advance planning for severe weather shelters without action being taken to do so. But on Tuesday, February 8, 2022, Whatcom County Council finally authorized an interlocal agreement between the two government bodies to provide winter shelters during severe weather emergencies.

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Bellingham plans for emergency winter shelters: a spring to spring timeline / Noisy Waters Northwest

January 16, 2022 Dena Jensen

March 3, 2021

In a communications document from early last year, with the header “Winter Into Spring Communications Strategy,” shared in an email by Bellingham Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Oliver, there was an outline point that stated, “Health Dept. recommends no government-run emergency winter shelters in future.”

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So far, Whatcom County winter season sheltering options are Scrooged / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the image to access the most recent information on Lighthouse Mission Ministries’ emergency sheltering availability

December 8, 2021 Dena Jensen

At the December 2, 2021 Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness (WCCEH) meeting that took place over Zoom, Whatcom County Human Services Supervisor Ann Beck prefaced her update on Whatcom County winter sheltering efforts by saying it had been a bad day at work for her. She explained that would be the reason, should she tear up at any point during her presentation. Beck also shared that she was due to attend another meeting related to the heavy flooding that has displaced unprecedented numbers of people in the County.

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Homefullness in so-called Whatcom County: Can we get a witness?

Click the image of the POOR Press store webpage displaying the cover of the Homefulness Handbook for ordering a copy of the handbook. The page provides additional information about the book

November 15, 2021 Dena Jensen

Bellingham City Council held their November 15, 2021 Special Meeting – Public Comment session tonight. These sessions are not recorded. I have been trying to record each of them, myself, so I have a record of what our community members want their representatives to know. And I keep and submit a written copy of my comments via EngageBellingham, because over half of Council Members do not attend the public comment session each week that they occur, so they apparently never get to hear what has been said.

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Chapter Two: City Staff and the Mayor – Whatcom Barriers to Equity, a review for 2021 candidates / Noisy Waters Northwest

July 29, 2021 Dena Jensen

From Introduction – Whatcom Barriers to Equity, a review for 2021 candidates : 

Materials that were responsive to a number of recent public records requests obtained from the City of Bellingham, and one request from Whatcom County, provide insights into notable communications strategies of existing City staff, the mayor’s office, and some City Council Members regarding many of the winter’s events related to homelessness. On some of these matters, communications were being coordinated between the City and County executive branches.

Based on information contained in those materials, an important question arises regarding future actions of folks newly stepping up to run, or those continuing on to serve their community in public office: will they take action to eliminate government approaches that view or portray individuals and community organizations serving people in crisis as adversaries?

Chapter One: The County Executive – Whatcom Barriers to Equity, a review for 2021 candidates

Chapter Two: City Staff and the Mayor

By the time the December 7, 2020 Bellingham City Council meeting arrived last year, the protest calling for more homeless services known as 210 Camp or Camp 210, had been occupying the lawn at Bellingham City Hall for almost a month.

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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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Take a hard look at Whatcom County’s Severe Weather Shelter history / Letter to the Homeless Strategies Workgroup

Click the graphic image presenting Recommendations for Consideration by the Homeless Strategies Workgroup discussed at their April 16, 2021 meeting to access a text version on the Whatcom County website

April 21, 2021 Dena Jensen

Below is my email, sent today, to Whatcom County’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup:

Subject: Regarding the presentation related to severe weather shelters at the April 16, 2021 Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting

Dear Homeless Strategies Workgroup:

Near the end of the the April 16, 2021 Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting discussion, a motion was approved by the workgroup to recommend to Whatcom County Council a recommendation from Health Department/County staff. This guidance was a short term action step to establish a data collection process to assist in ongoing analysis and planning. 

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Our community members in crisis must not be treated as expendable / Letter to the Homeless Strategies Workgroup

Click the graphic to access Whatcom County’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting materials webpage

March 4, 2021 Dena Jensen

Dear Homeless Strategies Workgroup:

I really appreciate the questions and points raised in recent letters sent in by Carmen Gilmore and Arrissia Owen Turner, and I hope the workgroup will use these to help cement focus and progress on primary goals. 

I also call for one of the primary goals of this workgroup being that of addressing the needs of unsheltered community members in crisis, and feel it will become easier and quicker to make progress on this goal by staying grounded in an approach that views people falling through the cracks of existing solutions – or lack of them – as unacceptable. 

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Solutions needed to help heal the community: Homeless Strategies Workgroup meeting 2/19/21

Click the graphic image of the 2/19/21 Homeless Strategies Workgroup agenda to access the agenda and other meeting materials on the Whatcom County website.

February 18, 2021 Dena Jensen

Whatcom County Homeless Strategies Workgroup meets tomorrow, Friday, February 19, 2021, 1:30-3:00 p.m. Here is the Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/91936129280?pwd=QmZYaVdFMm1SZW5hcmpBdHcyVHkxQT09

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Whatcom County Severe Weather Shelters will open starting Sunday night, January 12, 2020 / Noisy Waters Northwest

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Click the graphic to access Whatcom County’s Winter Emergency Shelter Options page

January 10, 2020  Dena Jensen

Emergency Winter Shelter Hotline: (360) 788-7983

The big storm that weather services have been predicting for the last couple weeks is here.  People without shelter will be getting soaked, with extremely chilling temperatures closing in during the weekend. Whatcom County has posted Severe Weather Shelter openings starting Sunday night when lows are predicted to be 18 degrees according to the National Weather Service forecast specifically for Bellingham.

At this point, Whatcom County has said shelters will be open until Wednesday and that,
“The need for severe weather shelters to operate after Wednesday night will be reevaluated as forecasts are updated next week.”

Note that two shelters will be open January 12, at Garden St. United Methodist Church, serving families with children, and at Christ the King Church serving adult men. Seventh Day Adventist Church will open their shelter on Monday January 13 and it is projected to remain open until January 15, serving adults. Fountain Community Church, serving adults, will open on Wednesday January 15.  Continue reading