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They're basic human necessities, and now they'll be available to Bellingham homeless

Maritime Heritage Park is among four places in Bellingham where portable toilets and dumpsters will be available 24 hours a day, starting the weekend of March 31.
Maritime Heritage Park is among four places in Bellingham where portable toilets and dumpsters will be available 24 hours a day, starting the weekend of March 31. For The Bellingham Herald

Four places in the city will have portable toilets and dumpsters available 24 hours a day starting this weekend — a decision that homeless advocates are cheering.

The locations are:

Young and Girard streets.

The corner of 24th Street and Old Fairhaven Parkway.

Sunset Pond Park off of James Street.

The three spots will join Maritime Heritage Park, which already had portable toilets and garbage bins and will continue to have them.

Mayor Kelli Linville directed that the toilets and dumpsters be put into place.

"I have been interested for a long time in looking at where to have a safe camp site with dumpsters and portable toilets, which has been challenging to locate," Linville said. "We have now separated these issues and have located sites for garbage and restroom facilities that would be accessible to everyone."

"Providing portable toilets and garbage facilities is a temporary solution until longer-term solutions are found," the mayor added.

Maritime Heritage.jpg
Maritime Heritage Park is among four places in Bellingham where portable toilets and dumpsters will be available 24 hours a day, starting the weekend of March 31. Paul Conrad For The Bellingham Herald

The city will pay Sanitary Service Co. to provide and service the facilities, according to City of Bellingham spokeswoman Vanessa Blackburn.

How much those services will cost wasn't immediately available.

People urinating and defecating in public, as well as trash left behind in camps, have been sources of complaint and frustration for the public and business owners.

Advocates have been pushing the city to provide places where the homeless can throw away their trash and use restrooms.

The advocates who were at a City Council meeting earlier this week cheered when Bellingham Police Chief Dave Doll announced the decision.

"It's a very simple thing to do," Doll said.

Having the city put portable toilets and dumpsters around town was one of the requests made by those involved in a homeless campout in front of Bellingham City Hall in December. People camped there for 18 days to bring attention to the needs of the homeless.

"I'm happy to see about the port-a-pots and dumpsters," said Jim Peterson, founder of HomesNOW!

He also asked the city to give the homeless sleeping in the woods portable toilets and dumpsters, adding that a good place would be off Woburn Street heading into Whatcom Falls Park.

HomesNOW! is working on a pilot project to build tiny homes for the homeless in Whatcom County.

Blackburn said site selection criteria for the toilets and dumpsters included the desire to have several locations throughout Bellingham, visibility for safety, proximity to areas where they're needed most, low impact on surrounding areas, and places where services vehicles can get in and out.

"We also asked for input from our encampment cleanup coordinator in the police department as well as the Homeless Outreach Team, and these sites reflect their input," she said.

Doll also said the city was going to produce a map that would show people who were homeless where they could temporarily park their vehicles.

"We're also reminding our community that sleeping in your car is not a crime and that you can sleep in your car," Doll said. "We're not going to come and contact you unless we get a complaint."

Blackburn said people are allowed to park and sleep in their vehicles anywhere in the city, unless signs indicate otherwise.

"If there is a complaint, law enforcement will do outreach and the owner of the vehicle has 72 hours to move it to another location," Blackburn added.

The locations of the facilities were corrected March 29, 2018.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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