Forty studio apartments for those who are homeless are being proposed for 1022 N. State St., next to Northwest Youth Services.
The plan is to begin building this fall and have the project completed by the end of 2018. The apartment complex would be on property owned by Northwest Youth Services and where it already has a 16-bed facility – known as the Positive Adolescent Development program, or PAD – that offers emergency shelter as well as more permanent housing to youths.
Half of 22 North would be set aside for Northwest Youth Services clients, who are 18 to 25 years old.
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The remainder would be for Opportunity Council clients, adults who are chronically homeless.
The complex would have around-the-clock staffing and security, community rooms and office space for Northwest Youth Services. There also would be services on the premises, including housing case management, vocational employment support, mental health and chemical dependency.
“We’re working on making sure that there are as few barriers as possible for people to access services,” said Riannon Bardsley, executive director for Northwest Youth Services.
Opportunity Council would be the developer, owner and manager of the building.
Northwest Youth Services would help young adults.
Opportunity Council would put older adults in its units, including possibly setting aside up to seven studios for veterans who are chronically homeless.
The housing is needed, said those who help the homeless.
“We know that stable housing is the solution to homelessness,” said Greg Winter, executive director for Opportunity Council.
“We see 22 North as a project that adds significantly to the inventory of the kind of supportive housing that is effective at ending homelessness for people with very complex needs,” Winter added. “It’s more humane and cost-effective to provide this kind of housing than it is to leave people in a state of being unsheltered on our streets and in our parks.”
Homelessness has been increasing in Whatcom County in recent years. About 719 people are without homes – a 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to a 2016 report that provided an overview of homelessness.
That number is expected to have increased by about 3 percent this year, according to preliminary results of the annual census of the homeless, known as the Point-in-time Count, conducted in January.
Affordable housing is scarce in Bellingham, where a low rental vacancy rate and high rental payments make it tough to get their clients into homes.
Bardsley tells of instances where a landlord has a space available and 50 applicants.
She said Northwest Youth Services has about 130 people who are on a waiting list for housing.
It’s also hard for people with no credit history, and those with mental illness or chemical dependency issues to get into housing, homeless advocates said.
The majority of the money for 22 North is coming from the federal low-income housing tax credit program. Two other primary sources are housing dollars from the City of Bellingham, from federal housing funds as well as from the levy Bellingham voters approved in 2012 to help those in need get into affordable housing.
The Washington state Department of Commerce also has provided some money. Chuckanut Health Foundation, First Federal Community Foundation, and IMCO Construction also donated – $100,000 from Chuckanut Health and $25,000 each from First Federal and IMCO.
“We’ve had some really nice support,” Bardsley said.
Although most of the money needed is in hand, Northwest Youth Services is raising another $780,000 to help pay for staffing as well as for four units that would be set aside for full-time students who had previously been homeless to continue living there.
Opportunity Council will apply for a building permit in June or July.
Northwest Youth Services is raising $780,000 for the 22 North housing development in Bellingham, which will serve the homeless. The money will be used for construction and staffing. Make a tax-deductible donation by going online, nwys.org/22north.