A letter in last Sunday's Bellingham Herald "Unhappy with transitional housing" focused on public safety concerns with a planned group home on East Pole Road to house offenders released from jails and prisons. This effort was planned and organized by the privately operated faith-based organization "Bridges of Hope," not Whatcom County or the Sheriff's Office.
While many understandably do not want this facility in their neighborhood, the fact remains that offenders are far more likely to re-offend and endanger public safety when released to homelessness with no transitional assistance.
Experience has shown mixed results with the effectiveness of transitional re-entry programs that include housing for released inmates. Research demonstrates that well-managed programs that cooperate with law enforcement decrease recidivism and have little impact on public safety. Conversely, poorly managed programs have significant impacts on safety and drain government resources.
Bridges of Hope requires offenders to engage in education, employment, attend church and work with a mentor. They agreed not to house violent or sex offenders, notify the Sheriff's Office of residents entering and leaving the housing, limit visitation and keep neighbors informed. They also placed neighborhood residents and a county council member on the board responsible for selecting program participants.
Whatcom County planning officials report that this facility is consistent with zoning and state law. As your Whatcom Count Sheriff, I cannot prohibit this facility but will to continue to liaison with the leadership of Bridges of Hope and do all I can to ensure accountability, success and neighborhood safety.