The downtown Community Solutions Workgroup convened in late 2013 by Mayor Kelli Linville recommended 14 projects to improve downtown. The city and local service groups have made headway on some of those projects in recent months.
Police training on mental health and alcohol issues: By the end of the year, each Bellingham police officer who interacts directly with the public will receive eight hours of training for how to assess mental health and alcohol problems. Nearly every officer has already taken the training, Police Chief Cliff Cook said.
"We're bringing in local social service experts to present some training as well as completing the segments that have been recommended by the state Criminal Justice Training Commission," Cook said.
Citywide supportive housing: The city is recruiting partners for housing projects that would provide supportive housing with on-site staff. The city has funding for that type of housing, but it would need to be matched, so city staff plan to advocate at the state legislative level to reinstate the Housing Trust Fund, which has been a common source of those matching funds in the past, city communications manager Vanessa Blackburn said.
Increased police presence: In her 2015 budget proposal, Linville plans to ask City Council to approve the addition of two beat cops for downtown. The officers would work in addition to existing bicycle and vehicle patrols, and would enable other officers to respond to more calls outside of the city center.
Staffed 24-hour drop-in center for homeless youth: Homeless youth don't have many options after business hours. Northwest Youth Services, which already offers an emergency housing program for minors, has expressed an interest in partnering with the city or other organizations to host a 24-hour drop-in center, but the project needs a funding source, Blackburn said.
Create an Alcohol Impact Area: The mayor likely will bring a proposal to City Council this year to ask the state Liquor Control Board to create an Alcohol Impact Area in downtown. In that area the sale of high-alcohol-by-volume beverages, like malt liquors, would be limited.
"Homeless in Bellingham" video series: Three educational videos have been made to teach people about homelessness in the city and share stories of real people in the community who are or have been homeless. The videos can be viewed on the Whatcom Homeless Service Center's website: whatcomhsc.org/homeless-in-bellingham-film-project. Three more videos are being produced.