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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

County Council narrows down future location of lockers for the homeless

The five proposed locations are located near the Whatcom County Courthouse // Photo by Tris Anderson

by Tris Anderson and Megan Sokol

Safe Storage PNW is one step closer to a property lease after several informational presentations and meetings with the Whatcom County Council.

The council motioned 5-1 for Safe Storage PNW and the county administration to select one of two proposed locker locations for the homeless community on Tuesday, July 10.

Council member Todd Donovan opposed and council member Tim Ballew II was absent from the meeting. After the final selection is made by Safe Storage PNW and the county administration, the council will vote on the decision.

Safe Storage PNW is a project dedicated to creating lockers for homeless community members. The project mission is “to increase the chances for people experiencing homelessness to transition off the streets,” according to the Safe Storage PNW Facebook page. A study done by Safe Storage PNW found that the most necessary service for the homeless is a place to store belongings.

The council began by debating the most favorable locker locations, citing concerns with reduced parking near the courthouse and inadequate monitoring of the lockers with pre-existing CCTV cameras fixed to the courthouse.

SafeStorage presented these locations as potential candidates: Central & Grand Avenue, the Lottie parking lot, the Civic Center Annex lot, near the Drop Box, or the Lottie st. sidewalk. These location factors were organized by number (best locations at lower numbers, with the less preferable at higher numbers) and listed through A-E. Each of the five proposed locker locations are in close proximity to the Whatcom County Courthouse.

Sites B and D were determined to be the best locations based on factors such as lighting, ground surface, neighborhood impact, safety, openness and camera positions.

Council member Satpal Sidhu motioned for the council to allow Safe Storage PNW and the county administration to select the best location after the council narrowed down the options to two.

Council member Barbara Brenner seconded the motion, later stating, “I would be okay with any of the sites, but I’m not the expert. You guys are the experts on what to do, the administration would be the expert on what site would be most cost effective.”

The council has requested to obtain quarterly reports on Safe Storage PNW’s turnout rate for people using storage lockers, and the success rate based on evaluation surveys for when a homeless resident has terminated their locker-lease agreement.

Safe Storage PNW coordinators Carmen Gilmore and Brittany Jones said they modeled their design plans after the storage lockers in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the few other cities that provide storage lockers for homeless citizens. The council had met with Safe Storage PNW several meetings before, starting in the beginning of the year.

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