Road2Home opened its first winter shelter at Civic Stadium on Dec. 1, 2023, and it offers nightly housing, unlike its previous shelters.
“It’s just a more consistent model,” said Road2Home Executive Director Ashley Buerger.
The winter shelter is underneath the scoreboard in the locker rooms, which are closed off from the public during the winter months. Buerger believes the community needs a nightly winter shelter based on data from their previous year operating a severe weather shelter during which they had a high of approximately 70 guests in one night.
That shelter was open 28 nights between the beginning of December and the end of February last year, but the Civic Stadium shelter will be open all 90 nights this winter. Buerger said this will help Road2Home retain consistent staff and volunteers as well as help them communicate with the community members they are serving.
Buerger also explained the City of Bellingham determined this location to be ideal because it allows access to restrooms and shower facilities, is centrally located within the city and has access to the bus line.
Road2Home is partnered with the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County Health and Community Services to keep the shelter open for the winter months.
“The county is contributing 50% of funding and the city is contributing 50% of funding,” Buerger said.
Some of that funding went to training, which Buerger said has been very successful. They trained staff and volunteers on dealing with trauma and substance use disorders in their community, sometimes using role-play as a training technique.
“We have been so impressed with how effective that training has seemed to be because our staff has really responded to their needs beautifully and we're seeing a lot of cohesiveness throughout the team and there's a lot of heart and passion,” Buerger said.
For community members still seeking to use the Civic Stadium, Buerger said she was unconcerned about the flow of traffic between visitors and shelter occupants because the stadium has a main entrance separate from the locker rooms.
To contact the winter shelter, call them at (360) 746-4190.
Hayden Knoedler (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a third-year student at Western working to complete a minor in News/Editorial journalism to accommodate his Creative Writing major. In his free time, he enjoys taking photos and playing video games. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org