In June, the Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness released their 2016 Annual Report: A Home for Everyone, which summarizes the results of this year’s Point-In-Time Count. It states, “Compared to 2015, the number of unsheltered persons encountered increased 40% by this 2016 Count.” This count is a snap-shot from a one day survey, but we all agree that this increase is no surprise. We’ve seen it at the Mission and I’m sure you’ve noticed more people on the street, spending time downtown or at Maritime Heritage Park.
Over the last few months we’ve been working to find the best way to address this dramatic increase in visible homelessness. We’ve developed a plan to open the Drop-In Center (DIC) as a low barrier shelter, extending its hours so it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning this October (it is currently open Monday through Friday from 12:30PM to 5:00PM, so this expansion is a huge!) During the day, the DIC will operate as its usual daytime shelter, and then convert to an overnight shelter in the evening.
The new overnight shelter at the DIC will have room for up to 80 men to sleep, and this will free up space for up to 40 women to sleep in what was formerly the Mission’s Overflow Shelter. This will triple the total number of people sheltered each night, as the Overflow Shelter previously slept up to 40 men and women. The DIC will meet an emergency need, but we are actively seeking an alternative location for the long-term.
Our hope is that in making this a “low barrier” shelter, we will expand our outreach and cultivate motivation in the chronically homeless. Here’s what that “low barrier” term entails: As with most Mission programs, there will be no religious requirements to access services. At the same time, we will continue to offer prayer, chapel services, bible study, have a Chaplain available, and provide Christian staff who are always looking for opportunities to share the Gospel and Christ’s love. Shelter guests will continue to have accountability and be asked to follow basic behavioral expectations. Accommodations will also be made for people who have pets. This type of shelter should never be the end goal for someone. So as with all Mission programs, staff will be working alongside guests to help them achieve their goals.
This expansion of the Drop-In Center hours will require additional staff and will greatly increase our costs. This program, as with all Mission programs, is not government funded. We are 100% funded by individuals, businesses and churches.. So we need your help more than ever! Please donate today to help us provide shelter for up to 80 more people.