Whatcom Magazine

Lydia Place growing, changing to help homeless

Angela Jones walks the runway modeling for Salon Bellissima during the “Handbags for Housing” fundraiser for Lydia Place June 4 at Depot Market Square.
Angela Jones walks the runway modeling for Salon Bellissima during the “Handbags for Housing” fundraiser for Lydia Place June 4 at Depot Market Square. For The Bellingham Herald

After 26 years of helping homeless families in Whatcom County, Lydia Place needs more elbow room. So the nonprofit agency in Bellingham is readying plans to add a second story above its offices to provide more space for staff, meetings and classes. The expansion could cost $400,000.

“We’re out of space,” says Emily O’Connor, executive director.

Lydia Place’s current offices are adjacent to a two-story residence that provides transitional housing for four women and four families. Those rooms are currently being upgraded with help from a city grant.

“It’s been long overdue, with hundreds and hundreds of families and children coming through this facility over the years,” O’Connor says.

A local committee of women started Lydia Place in 1989 to help homeless women and their children. That remains a major focus, but Lydia Place has expanded its programs and clientele over the years. Lydia Place workers also help formerly homeless families, men and women who live in 79 apartments of the Bellingham Housing Authority, and they work with large and two-parent families who are staying in single-family homes for up to six months.

Last October, Lydia Place began providing housing placement and case management for women at Bellingham’s domestic-violence shelter.

And early this year, Lydia Place started a new program that provides at-home visits to help parents and their young children who are staying in Lydia Place housing. An educator visits the parents to offer guidance about child development and parenting skills, and to help parents with developmental and health screenings for their youngsters.

O’Connor hopes funding can be found to hire a second educator to work with more families next year.

“An investment in the kids is an investment in our future,” she says.

More information

Details: lydiaplace.org and 360-671-7663.

Coming up: The annual Girls Night Out in Fairhaven on Sept. 19 benefits Lydia Place. People spend the day shopping with a $15 Girls Night Out passport, available at Fairhaven merchants. Shoppers also can spend the day with a group of friends and purchase VIP passports for $30, which includes designated seating at a party and a bag of gifts. Participating merchants feature discounts, giveaways, demonstrations, artists, and samples.

Shoppers who have their passport stamped by at least 10 merchants can enter to win a prize at the party at Bellingham Cruise Terminal from 7 to 10 p.m., where there will be auctions, wine, snacks, and entertainment by women from Upfront Theatre. Details: girlsnightoutfairhaven.com.