Bellingham OKs a temporary camp for the homeless this winter

The city will allow up to 40 people who are homeless to temporarily camp in part of a parking lot behind City Hall this winter.

It has issued a permit for a tent encampment to the nonprofit HomesNOW! to operate what’s being called Winter Haven, city of Bellingham officials announced Tuesday.

The encampment will be allowed to have up to 20 tents.

The permit allows Winter Haven to operate for 90 days, with an end date of April 2 to April 15, at the latest.

The camp will be in the western part of the parking lot at 210 Lottie St., which is owned by the city.

People may move in there as soon as Jan. 3, if no one appeals the permit.

Information for this story came from a city of Bellingham news release and previous stories by The Bellingham Herald.

Tent Encampment Site.jpg
The city of Bellingham has issues a permit for a temporary encampment for people who are homeless. Called Winter Haven, the temporary camp behind City Hall at 210 Lottie St. will provide shelter for up to 40 people during the coldest winter months. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The site will include bathrooms, showers, drinking water, an outdoor kitchen, garbage and recycling containers, as well as human services and social services, the city said.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville brought the proposal to the City Council on Nov. 19, which stated its support for the encampment.

A temporary tent city was one of the primary requests made by homeless protesters who camped out in front of Bellingham City Hall for 18 days in December 2017. HomesNOW! organized that event to bring attention to homelessness.

Winter Haven must follow public health and safety rules required by the city under the new rules for temporary homeless shelters.

Requirements include:

A ban on drug or alcohol use for people living there.

Onsite supervision 24 hours a day provided by a HomesNOW! board member or a volunteer who isn’t living there.

Security measures such as video cameras that will be provided by the city, lighting and fencing.

No children younger than 18 can stay overnight unless they are accompanied by a parent or a guardian.

A ban on open flames or fires.

An application process and screening that will be done away from the camp. No queuing up will be allowed at the site .

Bellingham Police Department check for warrants.

Registered sex offenders, people who are required to register as a sex offender, and people who have active warrants will be barred from the encampment.

A HomesNOW! board member must meet with city staff at least once a week to identify and resolve issues that may occur at the encampment.

The city can close the site immediately if a crime is committed, police or fire chiefs believe there is a danger to campers or surrounding community, or the provisions of the permit are violated.

The Planning and Community Development Department will update the City Council on the encampment about a month after it opens.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.