As winter weather hovers, Bellingham opens small emergency shelter for men

The city of Belling will open an overnight shelter for up to 25 homeless men in the pavilion at ​​Maritime Heritage Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The city of Belling will open an overnight shelter for up to 25 homeless men in the pavilion at ​​Maritime Heritage Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The city is opening an emergency shelter Tuesday night for up to 25 men who are homeless as cold temperatures and snow continue, and existing overnight shelters near their capacity.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville directed staff to open a shelter that will be run by the city, according to a news release issued on Tuesday.

The city shelter will be in the Maritime Heritage Park pavilion Tuesday in the park at 500 W. Holly St. It will operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“It will add some relief and then we will assess after tonight to see if further capacity is needed,” Vanessa Blackburn, spokeswoman for the city, said to The Bellingham Herald on Tuesday.

“We really are taking it day by day at this point,” she said.

There will be a police presence at the shelter. There will be rules and a code of conduct, Blackburn said.

“We want it to be a safe place for everyone,” she said.

Men who want to stay at the city shelter will be checked in when they show up.

Lighthouse Mission Ministries operates an overnight emergency shelter for the homeless at its Drop-In Center at 1013 W. Holly St. in Bellingham.

Lighthouse Mission has been working with Fountain Community Church to host a cold-weather shelter at the church. It has been open every night since December, and other churches also have contributed to the effort.

The cold-weather shelter will stay open through February.

Last year, the church offered spaces for 50 women each night. This year, the cold-weather shelter added another 30 spots should more space be needed on the coldest nights.

The Drop-In Center and Fountain Community Church shelters are open to all, regardless of people’s religious beliefs.

A total of 196 homeless men and women were sheltered Monday night between Lighthouse Missions Ministries facilities and Fountain Community Church, according to the news release.

Blackburn said the city-run shelter will augment those spaces and will provide an option for men who don’t want to go to the Mission’s Drop-In Center.

“They are approaching capacity. They’re still taking people. They’re still not turning anyone away,” Blackburn said. “This is more to provide an alternative and some relief for the Lighthouse Mission, which has been our primary shelter in our community.”

On Monday, Linville signed a proclamation that an emergency existed in Bellingham because of the winter storms that began on Friday.

That authorized the city to provide appropriate emergency assistance to storm victims and to otherwise act to protect life and property, the news release stated.

Bellingham Police and Bellingham Fire continue to take those who are homeless to local shelters, according to the news release.

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.