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.
9/1/21: This project is a work in progress, will be updated daily until transcription of public comments is complete, and will include transcriptions of public comments from Bellingham City Council meetings before the Council started restricting their public comment periods to 15 minutes on March 22, 2021. The public comments transcribed will be for regular City Council meetings earlier this year, from January 11, 2021 through March 8, 2021.
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
July 14, 2021 Dena Jensen
After the unsheltered community members who had been camping at Bellingham City Hall were swept from the area known as Camp 210 on January 28, 2021, City of Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood and Bellingham Police Chief Flo Simon held a press conference that same day. They presented their points of view regarding their actions related to the militarized sweep of around 100 unsheltered individuals and their belongings. In his statement, Mayor Fleetwood asserted, “Our civic center was becoming the target of agitators far more intent on mayhem than working toward any social good.”
In May of this year, Whatcom County 2021 candidate filing yielded seven candidates running for a total of four Bellingham City Council seats. There are fourteen candidates vying to fill four County Council seats, along with five Port of Bellingham candidates to potentially fill two seats. Whether running unopposed, or facing challengers, each one of them has potential to generate public conversation and advance solutions for critical community issues.
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.
March 15, 2021 Press Release, Serenity Outreach Services
Serenity Outreach Services strongly condemns the city’s decision to sweep the Geri field homeless encampment. We feel the homeless encampment sweeps must be addressed as it relates to us as a nonprofit, as community members, and as tax-paying individuals. The sweep goes against recent CDC guidelines, Whatcom County Health Department guidance, and the recent 9th Circuit Superior Court Ruling.
On Friday, September 11, 2020 Whatcom County’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup (HSW) held their most recent meeting. Many critical issues were discussed and people should watch and listen to the whole meeting. Homelessness is an emergency for many members of our community.
In this blog post, however, I am providing a transcription of a discussion during the meeting, which began shortly before public comment was taken and continued throughout some of the public comments later on. The discussion focused on Bellingham Police Department (BPD) policy/procedure related to City of Bellingham unauthorized homeless “camp clean ups”, as they are referred to by COB.