Jason McGill has been appointed to the Bellingham-Whatcom County Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
McGill said he saw the intersections between domestic and sexual violence and homelessness when working with people experiencing homelessness, which is why he wanted to become part of the commission.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood said he wanted to appoint McGill to the commission because of these intersections he wants to address.
“It is through these kinds of connections and the working groups that foster them that we will continue to address our community’s most challenging issues,” Fleetwood said.
“He can play a valuable role in addressing the connections among the issues these groups examine,” Fleetwood said. “For example, the majority of young people served by Northwest Youth Services have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence, so having his voice on the commission will help make vital connections between domestic violence and sexual assault, and issues of housing and homelessness, particularly for youth and young adults.”
McGill said he wants to be part of the solution to create more intentional housing for people experiencing domestic and sexual violence in order to jumpstart or continue survivors' healing journeys because it can't be done in large shelters.
“This is not throwing shade at basecamp at all; that is our only shelter in this community that is sustainable, but everyone goes there,” McGill said. “If you’re experiencing homelessness, that's where you go. We need to pull folks out of there to get them into more intentional housing.”
McGill said that intentional housing would be recovery homes with a solid structure and community that would ideally have basic needs, counselors and a case manager to help people navigate the other systems that can be hard to access.
Elizabeth Hart, the program supervisor at Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, said the group is one of the only places in Bellingham that offers emergency housing for people experiencing domestic and sexual violence.
“We have about 41 beds available, and they’re almost always full,” Hart said. “In our shelter, it is rare to have a space open up.”
Hart said it means a lot that McGill wants to address the intersection between domestic and sexual violence and homelessness. According to her, DVSAS lacks funding, and she feels that she is letting people down when she has to turn them away.
If McGill addresses these intersections, Hart said she will support it.
“As an advocate, it feels terrible to not have a solution immediately available for someone,” she said. “We’re always going to continue to help them figure out the next safe option, but yeah, it feels really bad.”
According to McGill, people experiencing domestic violence are more likely to become homeless due to a lack of affordable housing.
“Folks experiencing domestic violence are disproportionately more likely to enter into homelessness,” McGill said. “Some of those reasons are that there is not enough affordable housing for survivors.”
Apart from there not being affordable housing, there is insufficient intentional housing, or it is very limited, McGill said.
Joshua Solorzano (He/Him) is a student reporter on The Front, reporting on the City News beat. He is majoring in Visual Journalism and minoring in Spanish. Habla español con fluidez.
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