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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tent encampment dedicated to local business owner following his death

The Winter Haven tent encampment will be located behind City Hall at 210 Lottie St. // Photo by Alexia Suarez

By Alexia Suarez

On the night Bellingham Papa John’s franchise owner Albert Pugh died, he received some exciting news. HomesNow President Jim Peterson walked in the shop 30 minutes before closing, roughly 3 weeks ago, to tell Pugh that they succeeded. Winter Haven, a 19-month-long project to shelter the homeless, was finally happening.

The two did a little dance on the tiled floor of Papa John’s, celebrating the milestone.

“I’m glad before he died that he knew we were going to do this,” Peterson said.

HomesNow is currently in the process of public comment for plans to build Winter Haven, a tent encampment behind Bellingham City Hall at 210 Lottie St. It will be dedicated to Albert Pugh in honor of his life and the Papa John’s franchise’s contributions to HomesNow.

It will house 20 tents, a communal kitchen and a portable shower truck and porta-potties. With cameras surrounding the premises, anyone wanting to enter or leave will need to sign in and out at a security checkpoint.

“He cared about everybody, he just wanted people to be happy. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if that’s what we all wanted?” said Peterson about Pugh.

HomesNow is a nonprofit that helps individuals who are homeless in the Whatcom County community. Peterson said HomesNow works with the homeless population to provide showers, give away clothes, build tiny homes and create safe storage places.

He said Pugh was there for HomesNow since their first summit – a chance to encourage the community to interact with the homeless population. Peterson was tasked with finding a local pizza place that would donate 25 pizzas for the event. He was apprehensive about asking, but said he felt it was worth the shot.

Peterson went to Papa Johns and after another scheduled meeting, Pugh donated 50 pizzas.

Peterson said since then, a lasting partnership formed and HomesNow has been partnering with Papa John’s ever since. Papa John’s would give the homeless coupons for free pizza, provide pizza for HomesNow events, donate money and have a clothing donation box in their store.

Last December, during the HomesNow sit-in on the City Hall lawn that lasted 18 days, Peterson said Pugh kept sending pizza to those camping there during that time.

“If there were more people like Albert in the world, this world would be a whole lot better,” Peterson said.

Cameron Rector, Papa John’s general manager, said Pugh had been working for the company for 20 years and since their Bellingham store opened, they’ve been a part of HomesNow.

“’We wanted to be known throughout the community, not only as a business but as a business who helps its community,” Rector said.

Pugh also was known as a joker and loved to pull pranks and joke around with his employees and friends, Rector said.

“[He was] the best boss I’ve ever worked for,” said David Granger, another Papa John’s manager said. “Most of all, he was really caring. He focused a lot on giving,” he said.

Peterson said he hopes to see Winter Haven opened up by Dec. 15 or during January 2019 at the latest. However, Peterson said to make Winter Haven work, they will need about 50 volunteers. To get involved, visit homesnow.org/volunteer.


  1. Sadly the City Hall is continuing to go through the permitting process which may very well delay the opening of Winter Haven until the first of the year. If this is intended to be an “emergency” encampment to keep homeless people from freezing to death or simply a humane gesture, in an emergency the permit process should be waived!


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