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Bellingham city council amends emergency weather proclamation as Whatcom county takes over shelter planning

Photo by Stella Harvey

By Stella Harvey

During an emergency meeting on Friday, Feb. 15, the Bellingham City Council voted to amend the severe winter weather emergency proclamation made Monday, Feb. 11. The proclamation now includes an order for the City of Bellingham to collaborate with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management to help house people without shelter.

According to a memorandum from Emergency Management staff to Mayor Kelli Linville, the weather in Bellingham is not severe enough anymore to constitute emergency responses like an emergency shelter. The temporary emergency shelter opened by the City of Bellingham at the Maritime Heritage Park pavilion was officially closed on Feb. 15.

The closure was met with opposition from meeting attendees who argued it is unsafe for people to be sleeping outside with temperatures set to drop below freezing in the coming days.

Mayor Kelli Linville has issued an authorization for Whatcom County to open a temporary emergency shelter, she said.

With other temporary shelters closing, Whatcom County Council member Barbara Brenner expressed concerns about the city closing its shelter before the county had officially opened its own.

“I don’t think there’s enough shelter now,” Brenner said. “If you guys shut down, we might take over what you’ve got but there’s still going to be that need.”

According to Markis Dee, a HomesNOW! volunteer, Whatcom County, with help from HomesNOW! volunteers, opened a temporary emergency shelter at 322 N Commercial St. on Friday, Feb. 15 that will be open for overnight use for up to 41 men. It is currently undecided how long the shelter will be open.

The Bellingham City Council, Whatcom County Council, city employees, HomesNOW! volunteers and concerned residents filled the mayor’s board room to discuss how the county will staff the Commercial Street shelter. Mayor Linville explained  due to a lack of trained personnel, she and many other city employees volunteered to staff the emergency shelters during the storm.

Mayor Linville and the city council agreed to help the county council establish a plan for their shelter using the materials and plans they used to open the emergency shelter at the Maritime Heritage Park pavilion, they said. Dee said city and county officials worked into the evening to set up the temporary shelter that will be run by the county, but is within Bellingham city limits.

Dee said a volunteer training event will be held at 322 N Commercial St. from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. People interested in volunteering should bring an I.D. and be ready to have a background check done, he said.

“We need those volunteers to come in at 1 o’clock today to get trained,” Dee said.

For more information on volunteer training, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2334455886838345/


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