When its time behind City Hall ends, here’s where this homeless tent community may go

Winter Haven to shelter up to 40 homeless people through April

On Jan. 3, 2019, HomesNOW! opened Winter Haven, a temporary encampment for the homeless, in the employee parking lot behind Bellingham City Hall.
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On Jan. 3, 2019, HomesNOW! opened Winter Haven, a temporary encampment for the homeless, in the employee parking lot behind Bellingham City Hall.

The homeless tent encampment in the parking lot behind City Hall could move to city-owned property on Alabama Street in April.

The nonprofit HomesNOW! has filed for a permit to relocate the tent community from April 3 to July 1 to the southern part of the parking lot of the What-Comm 911 dispatch center at 620 Alabama St.

The space would allow up to 32 men and women who are homeless to live in 25 tents.

It would include amenities such as bathrooms, showers, drinking water, an outdoor kitchen, garbage and recycling containers, as well as human and social services, according to its permit application.

HomesNOW! manages the tent encampment.

People have until 5 p.m. March 7 to comment on the proposal.

The application and associated documents can be viewed in the Permit Center at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

Written comments and requests for information are available by contacting Lisa Pool, senior planner, at lapool@cob.org or 360-778-8390.

The city of Bellingham allowed HomesNOW! to erect Winter Haven, the name for the temporary tent encampment that opened behind City Hall, on Jan. 3.

It will stay there until April 2.

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Tents sit empty at Winter Haven, a temporary shelter behind Bellingham’s City Hall, after residents were moved to motel room due to freeing overnight temperatures in early February. Kie Relyea kreleya@bhamherald.com

Winter Haven is being renamed Safe Haven under the relocation proposal.

Safe Haven would have five more tents than the 20 at Winter Haven.

The tent encampment must follow rules that 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 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.

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.