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Emergency easy-access shelter proposal

The City of Bellingham is currently searching for a site for a new easy-access emergency night shelter to serve those experiencing homelessness. Mayor Kelli Linville has been working with staff and community partner Lighthouse Mission Ministries (LMM), which has been operating an interim easy-access shelter in Old Town since October, to identify a location for a long-term shelter that operates with services 24-hours-per day, 7-days-per-week, year-round for up to 200 people.

Here's some facts about the shelter proposal.

Why does Bellingham need an emergency night shelter?

Like nearly every city in Western Washington, the City of Bellingham has seen a significant increase in unsheltered individuals. While the City has taken significant steps to address this through outreach programs and working with housing providers, it has become evident that the community is in need of an easy-access shelter that can address short-term needs. The proposed shelter will provide a place to spend the night that is preferred over our city streets and doorways.

Community concern about homelessness has grown in recent years, and this was reflected in the most recent community survey in which homelessness was the number one concern of residents. Bellingham is not alone in this issue, however, as it is affecting cities across the Pacific Northwest. Several Western U.S. cities, counties and states have declared states of emergencies on homelessness in the past few years.

Where will this new shelter be located?

The City does not currently have a location identified.

After an exhaustive search, in March 2017 the City determined that its own property located on the west side of Roeder Avenue between C and F Streets at 801/807 Roeder Avenue was the most suitable location. The City's goal was to locate the shelter away from residential neighborhoods and retail business districts, preferably in an industrial area. While this site is away from residential neighborhoods and the downtown core, it is close to operations partner Lighthouse Mission Ministries, which was an important factor in the site selection. The City-owned Roeder site was the only suitable location identified.

The Port of Bellingham exercised its option to purchase the Roeder Avenue property from the City in April 2017, however, which prevented the City from developing that site into a shelter. The City is currently looking for an alternative location.

What is Lighthouse Mission Ministry's role?

For 94 years LMM has worked to end the cycle of homelessness in the lives of men, women, and children in Whatcom County. LMM provides the most vulnerable in our community access to three nutritious meals a day; 24-hour shelters scaffolding upwards of 210 people a night; with access to life skills classes, referrals, case management, recovery programs and spiritual support -- "wrap around" services of healing and connection that cultivate total life transformation. LMM is a privately funded religious 501c3 non-profit entity.

As a part of LMM's overall continuum of care, the highest at-risk homeless individuals in "pre-recovery" are provided nightly Emergency Shelter with 80 sleeping mats on the Drop-in Center (DIC) floor for men, and 40 mats on the chapel floor of the main Mission building for women, as well as daily daytime shelter and meals. The purpose of the DIC is to stabilize incoming guests, offer assessment, and provide a motivational environment that initiates life-change and referral into higher levels of LMM recovery programming.

At present this entry point to LMM's overall continuum is insufficient to meet the community need as evidenced by emerging capacity constraints, lack of amenities in the DIC, proximity to residences and business, and the increasing trend of unsheltered underserved street-homeless in downtown Bellingham.  

What would a shelter provide for the community?

The City and LMM are proposing the following:

  • A 24-hour day center and emergency night shelter serving up to a maximum of 200 people. The shelter would serve clients aged 18 and older and would open as early as 12 months after funding and agency contracts are approved.
  • The day center will provide meals, bathroom and shower accommodations, hygiene supplies, socializing space, storage space for belongings, accommodations for pets, and access to various clinics and non-LMM service providers.
  • The emergency night shelter will provide sleeping accommodations of up to 200 mats in the day center space and will be free of explicitly religious activities for the period of night check-in to morning check-out.
  • No one will be discriminated against based on religious preference, sexual orientation or gender identity, and there will be no religious requirements or prerequisites to any services provided.
  • Drug or alcohol testing will not be a prerequisite for staying at the low-barrier shelter, but all guests will be expected to maintain respectful behavior.
  • Guests would be expected to not have weapons or engage in substance abuse or any other illegal activity on the grounds.
  • Guests will not be expected to show identification prior to their stay, but each person will be assisted and encouraged to obtain an ID soon after coming to the shelter.

LMM is also committed to connecting guests with other services, such as transitional and permanent housing and case management.

What are the next steps?

Mayor Linville and staff are actively looking for a site that will meet the needs of the City, the Lighthouse Mission, and other community partners.

In December, a joint County-City Homeless Strategies Workgroup convened to help identify appropriate sites. See the website for meeting materials and more information. Due diligence is now underway to identify the most feasible site with which to move forward.

How can I provide feedback or get involved?

To learn more about the City of Bellingham's efforts to address the homelessness crisis, please visit the City's website.  If you have questions or comments, you can contact the Mayor's office at (360) 778-8100 or mayorsoffice@cob.org. For more information about LMM, visit www.thelighthousemission.org/. To contact LMM, please call (360) 733-5120 or email hanse@thelighthousemission.org.


This webpage was updated on May 30, 2017, and will be updated as more information becomes available.


​Mayor's Office
(360) 778-8100