BELLINGHAM - Northwest Youth Services has finished the $350,000 project to build a new shelter for homeless and runaway youths.
"As you see, we're moving in," Riannon Bardsley, executive director for Northwest Youth Services, said Wednesday, Sept. 5, as she walked through the site on North State Street.
The nonprofit renovated the second story of its office building for the shelter, and volunteers and workers are readying the space.
"For me, it's a human right to have some place safe to be," Bardsley said.
One side will have three beds and will house youths in a setting more like transitional housing. The other side will be an emergency shelter offering overnight stays for up to 13 kids.
Part of the space also will function as a drop-in center where youths can come during the day to shower and wash their clothes, even if they're not staying there.
A grand opening has been set for Oct. 10, with plans to open the drop-in center Oct. 12. The shelter piece is awaiting state licensing approval.
Those working to end homelessness in Whatcom County cheered the effort, known as the Positive Adolescent Development program.
Gail de Hoog, housing specialist for the county Health Department, specifically mentioned the importance of the drop-in center, as well as the PAD's central location and its greater accessibility to youths.
"If we're a community that cares about our youth, there's no other alternative than to show that," de Hoog said, adding that the PAD will be a place that kids can trust and can go to receive services to break the cycle of homelessness early in their lives.
Bardsley said the shelter - made possible by a community that donated labor, money and materials - "shows how important young people are to the community."
"It has been quite the community effort," she added.
Northwest Youth Services has essentially raised what it needed to cover the cost of the renovation but is now seeking donations for items such as computers, desks, sheets and mattresses.
When it opens, the new shelter will replace the temporary one near Barkley Village.
Additional information about Northwest Youth Services and its shelters for runaway and homeless youths in Bellingham - including ways to donate to the effort - are online at nwys.org/pad.
Or call Riannon Bardsley, executive director for Northwest Youth Services, at 360-734-9862, ext. 116.
The nonprofit also is holding a volunteer orientation at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at its office on 1020 N. State St.
CORRECTION: The grand opening date was corrected Sept. 10.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.