March 14th Downtown Safety Meeting: Proposed Low-Barrier Shelter

Topic: Proposed Low-Barrier Shelter
Date: Tuesday, 3/14/2017
Location: 3rd floor Conference Room in the Herald Building --> moved to 7th floor because of high attendance
Estimated Attendance: 80
 

DBP Operations Manager, Marissa McGrath – Introduction
Background: group moving from resource-based to actionable goals
o   DBP needs support –-> facilitator --> steering committee --> goals

Invitation to get involved: group is recruting a downtown resident, a downtown resident transitioning out of homelessness, downtown retail, downtown professional; general interest also encouraged

Farewell to Peter Gunn DBP Landscaping Lead with 15 years working for downtown // Welcome Travis Enyeart, Peter’s replacement
 

Low Barrier Shelter Debrief
Rick Sepler, Community & Planning Director for the City of Bellingham &
Hans Erchinger-Davis, Lighthouse Mission Ministries
Tara Sundin, Community & Economic Development Manager for the City of Bellingham

Rick -

700 unsheltered homelessness in Bellingham // 350 of those are challenging to house
o   Vast majority are from Whatcom County
o   Can't build housing fast enough
The Mayor is "deeply moved,” and feels it would be “inhumane to just move them along" from downtown
o   Shelter will not serve to warehouse people, purpose is to connect people to the services they need
o   Expectations are that half will reject, half will accept services

"Time is of the essence" and the Mission is standing up because "they care a lot about people"
The City looked at every piece of land for suitable sites, including in industrial areas; were told no by property owners,
The City had to find land that it owned and was zoned appropriately
There are always going to be impacts/challenges. There is no perfect location,
Doesn't work to source large acre lots in the county, need to have access to services

Hans -

Executive Director at the Mission, 11 years with the homeless community,
Works to create incentives and opportunities for those in need to get help

Attempt to create bottleneck --> Outreach --> Drop-In Center
o   Stabilize chronically homeless
o   Safe/clean/trusting environment
o   Sense of dignity and value
oDeeper case management

 "Need is growing like crazy"
o   At capacity, having to turn people away when City approached them about the shelter

Proposed shelter details
o   200 capacity, mats on the floor
o   Goal is to get folks off the streets and out of downtown, get connected with
staff --> progress --> connect with other shelters
o   No breathalyzers/urine tests as a means to cast wider net
o   Based on behavior, proven to be successful
o   Breakfast, lunch, dinner provided
o   Location "incredibly ideal"
o   Access voluntarily, not forced
o   If shelter located far away, homeless people get stuck
o   Location is efficient for Mission staff


Tara-

Urgent need, Mayor wanted the shelter three years ago

1.5M needs to be raised by Lighthouse Mission in one year
o   .5M a year for services

City donating space, leasing land
First time the City to have a financial partnership with the Mission
City contributes $180,000.00 a year,
Funding to go before City Council
o   12-year term
o   Goal --> common programs

Port of Bellingham helping with finding new spaces for existing tenant in proposed location

Construction to start in May 2018,
Open winter of 2018/2019
 

Questions
Please note that the questions were more difficult to record accurately and that these notes are an effort to paraphrase discussion.
(Names included when known to DBP)

Are we getting good value?
o   Rick Sepler hopes for great outcomes and states that"God is in the details"

Question about location – was it the top choice?
o   Rick Sepler says this location "bubbled to the top"
o   Location not first choice
o   Saratoga helped City with landlord communications, were told no regarding other options

George Dyson, what about parking around the shelter?
o   Hans E-D: Chronically homeless are discouraged from having cars parking near shelter. Spots for employees and service providers
o   Cars will likely go somewhere in the community as they currently do

Dylan Green – What are the potential impacts regarding waterfront development?
o   Rick Sepler: What about the impacts of not having a shelter?

Impacts regarding revitalization efforts for Maritime Heritage Park?
o   Balance of making shelter attractive enough to get folks to stay but not too attractive where shelter can be taken advantage of
o   Shelter should help reduce people sleeping in the park and in the park's trails

Self-described "Displaced tenant" - Has Harcourt been looped in on the location of the shelter in regards to their investment in the Granary Building?
o   Feels waterfront is an extension of the downtown core
o   Is this site creating a bigger campus for homelessness
o   Will it hinder pedestrian access with proposed trail?
o   Hinder fresh, new development?
o   Limit community growth?
o   Has worked on waterfront for 15 years, business will be successful despite displacement but is concerned for community’s future

Chas Kubis - People who aren't attracted/interested in the shelter are the ones left on the street who are violent, disrupting the peace, etc. People who go to shelter are part of the homeless community who help keep the peace

Charlie Pasquier  – are we starting a trend now, group reconvenes in two years to discuss another facility? What else is the city planning to do?
 

Marissa – Wrap Up

Safety meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month,
Next meeting is April 11th at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, 9:30am

Thank you to Caffé Adagio for providing coffee and pastries
Thank you to Daylight Properties for providing space to meet ∎