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Bellingham
Friday, May 7, 2021

City Council Update: Homeless shelters and bike lanes

By Zoe Buchli

The Bellingham City Council met to hear a presentation on homeless shelter operations and for a public hearing to discuss the possible removal of on-street parking on Roeder Avenue.

The meeting took place on Monday, Feb. 12 and began with the swearing in of the new Police Chief David Doll and was followed by a presentation from Lighthouse Mission Executive Director Hans Erchinger-Davis.

He updated the City Council on the temporary low-barrier shelter that is located on West Holly Street and talked about the scale of how many people there are in Bellingham who need the shelter’s services during winter months.

Hans Erchinger-Davis speaks to the City Council. // Photo by Zoe Buchli

There are about 120 to 160 people on an average night who stay at the shelter, Erchinger-Davis said.

Erchinger-Davis also talked about the Lighthouse Mission’s partnership with Fountain Community Church, which has been taking in women during these colder months, allowing the mission to take in more men.

“If we didn’t have that partnership, we’d be turning people away because we’d have just not enough beds to be able to host everybody,” Erchinger-Davis said.

The mission’s drop-in center currently has 190 beds, Erchinger-Davis said.

Erchinger-Davis’s briefing comes at a time when the city is still looking for a new site for a 200-bed shelter, which has faced several setbacks.

“Our goal is to create a motivational space for people to take the next steps in life recovery,” Erchinger-Davis said.

In addition to the shelter briefing, the council held a public hearing to consider removing on-street parking on Roeder Avenue and installing bike lanes in its place.

Director of Public Works Ted Carlson gave a presentation on why Roeder Avenue is a possible site for new bike lanes.

“Whenever we’re resurfacing a street we look to the Bicycle Master Plan to see if there’s an opportunity to provide some sort of bike facility,” Carlson said.

City Council meeting. // Photo by Zoe Buchli

The Bicycle Master Plan was approved in 2014 and aims to create a safe and connected bike system throughout the city, according to the City of Bellingham’s website.

The plan outlines design strategies for potential new bikeways, and differentiates between multiple types of bike facilities that can be installed, including buffered bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, shared lane markings and cycle tracks.

The city determined that it is possible to fit bike lanes on Roeder at the cost of the existing on-street parking.

Local residents were largely in favor of the removal of parking and building of bike lanes, and said they will improve the safety of bikers who travel on Roeder Avenue.

Bellingham resident Galen Herz spent several years biking most places, but now drives.

“As a motorist I support protected bike lanes because I don’t want to kill other human beings with my car,” Herz said.

Residents also talked about how incorporating Roeder Avenue into the Bicycle Master Plan will help open up the waterfront to the public and encourage people to attend events that take place there.

Kristin Noreen is a Cordata resident who rides her bike almost everywhere around town.

“If we’re going to make our waterfront an international showpiece, let’s do it right. The time to make this change is now, before it’s already been done and it becomes a big deal to change it. Let’s do it right the first time,” Noreen said.

10 COMMENTS

  1. As you’ve started, you are working on a piece re: Homeless population. Thank you for that. I am requesting coverage on shelter alternatives as proposed by so many during the public comment period. It is distressing to see this large and vocal advocacy cohort receiving zero coverage. Please promise more on this. The voices of those currently or formerly homeless are important and deserve more than drive-by coverage. Thank you.

  2. not to mention that those of us that are married cant be together or have our cats have a litter box at the drop in center or the womens church

  3. What do you want to bet that the bike lanes will be implemented before a shelter is … because making our waterfront an “international showfront” is the priority over following RCW Guidelines for ending homelessness in our state. The time to make this change is NOW — as in housing all homeless people who are dying in our streets and bike lanes — before someone’s LIFE is already done (because people cannot come back from the dead). Let’s do it right PERIOD because there is no NEXT time when someone’s LIFE is on the line. https://www.change.org/p/bellingham-city-council-declaration-of-emergency-homelessness-response-in-bellingham-wa-whatcom-county

  4. I wish reporters would stop calling what they have at the drop in center beds they are no more then yoga mats where you are 6 inches away from the person sleeping beside you. Would you want to sleep that close to someone that you dont know? Its inhuman at best. BTW the DIC does turn people away and they also ban them so where are they suppose to go there is no place for them to go so they are force to camp outside which is Illegal

    • Hi, Jim. I’m the editor-in-chief this quarter and want to thank you for your feedback. The Western Front is continue to work on stories about homelessness in Whatcom County and I will pass on your concerns to our news editors. Feel free to reach out with any other concerns or questions. You can email us at westernfrontonline@gmail.com

  5. SERIOUSLY ????? Clearly the most supported , and most important issue was the effort by local non-profit group , Homes Now Not Later , (You might remember the folks who STUFFED the council chamber , and made SEVERAL heartfelt pleas to the council to release the constraints held against the homeless !!!! Judge for yourselves ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxSH_ THIS IS SIMPLY AN UNACCEPTABLE OMISSION FROM THIS STORY !

    • Hi, Markis. I’m the editor-in-chief of The Western Front this quarter. I just wanted to let you know I’ve seen your comments on our articles and have passed them on to our news editors. We are continuing to cover homelessness in Whatcom County and appreciate you taking the time to write about your concerns. We are taking them into account. Feel free to contact us at westernfrontonline@gmail.com

      • Asia – Thank you for your cordial response … It’s just that the largess of the attendance was there in favor of a very good , independently funded program , which , if implemented , will save lives on day one … Please excuse what seems
        our members’ passion , as it is truly vociferous compassion .

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