As the weather gets colder, The Lighthouse Mission has decided to open its overflow drop-in center earlier than usual
The Lighthouse Mission will open its overflow homeless drop-in center on Holly Street in December, providing 39 extra beds.
The drop-in center will be staffed by volunteers in an effort coordinated by Christ the King Church in Bellingham. The drop-in center will require 2 volunteers in the morning and 2 in the evening, according to the Christ the King website.
The drop-in center will open when The Lighthouse Mission’s main center has reached its capacity of 190 guests, said Wendy Powell, outreach pastor for Christ the King.
Previously, Christ the King had planned to begin staffing the overflow drop-in center once the temperature dropped below 29 degrees, but now it will open based on the main shelter’s capacity, Powell said.
The drop-in center will have cots spaced six feet apart with a capacity of 39 people, said Bridget Reeves, associate executive director of The Lighthouse Mission.
The center will provide snacks and coffee in the morning, Reeves said. All meals will be served at Basecamp, the main shelter across the street.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask inside, except when guests are on their cot, and testing will be available for any guests with COVID-19 symptoms, Reeves said. There will also be frequent cleanings, including the linens from the cots.
There is an isolation space at the drop-in center for anyone who tests positive, and volunteers will work to get them into the quarantine facility on Samish Way as quickly as possible, Reeves said.
Entry into the quarantine facility requires a referral from the Whatcom County Health Department or community paramedics. The Lighthouse Mission has worked closely with both to make sure anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be able to get a referral if needed, Reeves said.
Providing homeless individuals with health care once they have tested positive for COVID-19 is difficult because they are marginalized and often not connected to medical services, said Natasha Slesnick, professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
Despite serving up to 200 guests per night, The Lighthouse Mission has not yet had a positive case at any of their locations, Reeves said.
Staff and volunteers at the overflow drop-in center will use the same COVID-19 procedures as staff at the other Lighthouse Mission locations, Powell said.
“[The Lighthouse Mission] has put a lot of hard work in with the Health Department figuring out how to … fit folks in while making it as safe as possible,” Powell said.
The Lighthouse Mission hopes to keep the center open as many nights from December to February as possible, but how many nights it will be open depends on how many volunteers they have, Reeves said.
“There’s definitely the need for volunteers to find out [about the center] because if we get more volunteers that means more invites are possible,” Reeves said.
Volunteers will work at the center during the day, and staff members will work overnight, Powell said. Volunteers are required to pass a background check and complete the orientation that explains the duties and expectations for volunteers.
“This community pulls together better than most, and I really love that about Bellingham,” Powell said.
Volunteers can sign up on the Christ the King website.