Change clothes, change a life
Cheap clothes? Check. Unique finds? Check.
The allure of thrift shops is not lost within Western students, but not everyone knows about the nonprofit work many local stores take part in.
Wise Buys, which has been a member of the Bellingham community for 25-plus years, has been owned by a nonprofit organization called Lydia Place since it purchased the shop from the Young Women’s Christian Association in 1989. Community Engagement Coordinator Kyle Fuller said the organization is dedicated to ending homelessness in Whatcom County and giving homeless individuals the tools to find permanent housing.
“Our goal is to help women, men, families – especially children – get into housing,” Fuller said. “It’s our goal to not only get them off the street, but to get them into their forever homes,” Fuller said.
There are 719 homeless individuals in Whatcom County and Lydia Place serves about 300 households every year, helping everyone from single individuals to families with children, Fuller said.
Wise Buys’ Store Manager Nancy Long spoke to the significance of Lydia Place helping households with children. An important goal of Lydia Place is keeping homeless families together, because oftentimes families end up separated, Long said.
“It’s not just helping [homeless individuals] find a home, but to help them with whatever they need and give them the resources and avenues they need to be able to stay in a home,” Long said.
Providing housing while failing to provide resources solves the problem temporarily, but does little to stop homelessness in the long run. Fuller refers to this as a “Band-Aid” solution.
“It’s not just helping [homeless individuals] find a home, but to help them with whatever they need and give them the resources and avenues they need to be able to stay in a home.”
“Studies show that if a child is homeless, more likely than not, they are going to become homeless as an adult,” Fuller said.
Lydia Place provides programs, such as the Transitional House Program, to prevent homeless children from becoming homeless adults. The program is designed to give women and children a transitional house to stay in for 6 to 12 months before being moved to more permanent housing, Fuller said.
“We’re primarily volunteer-run. Our tagline is ‘Great bargains for a great cause.’ We also help the community with a few of the vocational programs in order to give people work experience,” Long said. “They get a chance to come here and develop their job skills so they can go find work, so it kind of ties into the overall mission.”