We have recently announced that plans are in the works to remodel the Lighthouse Mission campus, including demolition and building of a new facility. You can read the announcement here: https://www.thelighthousemission.org/news/planning-for-a-new-facility/ We created this FAQ to help answer any questions in the community that arise because of this future project. We are incredibly grateful for this community’s support and care of our neighbors who are homeless.
“There has been an increase in local homelessness and this is our response to that problem,” said Hans Erchinger-Davis, Executive Director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries. “We want to be equipped to better meet the need that we are seeing in our community. This campus wide remodel and new facility will enable us to increase our reach and serve more of the most vulnerable adults and children in our area.”
Who is the targeted audience/clients/shelter guests for Lighthouse Mission’s Base Camp?
Anyone who needs a place to stay, a meal, a shower, or other services will be welcome at the new Base Camp (men, women, seniors, families in crisis, medically fragile, etc.). When one population is protected and cared for, especially a vulnerable one like unhoused neighbors, it benefits our entire community.
In general, guests of Base Camp are 18 years of age and older, though there are families on occasion that access our services. For about 70% of our guests, their last stable housing was in Whatcom County.
What facilities are available for guests at Base Camp?
At Base Camp, along with meals and a bed, guests will also have access to restrooms, laundry facilities, showers, storage for overnight guests, important document and medication storage, outdoor space, a café, mail services, a SeaMar community health center, space for telehealth meetings, case management with Lighthouse Mission Ministries (LMM), shelters specifically designed for people working, seniors, medically fragile, and families in crisis, meeting space for strategic partners, emotional and spiritual support, and a rich, supportive community while navigating next steps. To learn more about current services at Base Camp, please visit https://www.thelighthousemission.org/what-we-do/base-camp/.
Is Base Camp a low-barrier shelter? Yes, it is.
What is a low-barrier shelter?
A low-barrier shelter means that there are very few barriers or requirements that would prevent someone from accessing our services. The goal is to be welcoming and hospitable while at the same time balancing any safety concerns that come with having so many people in one place. We hold that the most difficult person to work with is the one that we never see and never get the chance to know. So, with that in mind, we want to create a space where as many people as possible will come, engage in relationship, and feel safe enough to pursue life goals. We have a code of conduct that we enforce with our guests. Drugs, alcohol, or related paraphernalia are not allowed on the property. Many folks who stay at Base Camp are actively pursuing recovery, or may have never had a problem with it. But for example, if someone had used before coming into the building, they would be able to enter as long as their behavior did not endanger those around them.
In what ways does LMM welcome all of our community members?
Through a multi-faceted approach. One way that we do this is through equipping our staff with specific knowledge in what things may create barriers to accessing services and how to mitigate those hurdles. Another way is through our hiring practices where we strive to hire a staff that reflects the community which we serve. We understand the importance of staff having both lived experience and academic knowledge. At the end of the day, we are driven by our faith and like Jesus, seek to welcome each person, recognizing the similarities in each of us, regardless of background, and that we all have a need for relationship and being treated with dignity and respect.
Are there initial restrictions on who can stay at Base Camp?
Though Base Camp does not check for sobriety or active warrant status, a search is done in the National Sex Offender Registry for every guest who chooses to stay the night at Base Camp. Due to the number of individuals that frequent Base Camp, our staffing model, and the level of vulnerability that many guests exhibit, we are not able to receive Registered Sex Offenders into this level of care.
Is there a Code of Conduct? What is included there? What are LMM’s enforcement measures?
Yes, Base Camp does have a Code of Conduct. The focus in the Code of Conduct are safety guidelines and norms for community living at Base Camp. For instance, there is a safety expectation that all guests act respectfully towards each other, volunteers, neighbors and staff at Base Camp–this includes no violence, threats of violence, predatory behavior, or bringing drugs/alcohol onto Base Camp property. On the other hand, a community living norm is that we ask all guests to adhere to a limit of two bags of belongings in order to ensure that there is space for as many people as possible inside the facility.
Is there a program at Base Camp? Or is it merely a place for people to stay for free without a timeline?
Because the needs of each Base Camp guest are unique, each person’s goals, work with a case manager, and length of stay are also individualized. Acknowledging that there is not a one size fits all solution to homelessness, as we seek to serve so many of our vulnerable neighbors, we recognize that we need to be resourceful and flexible as we empower them towards success. There are situations where a timeline or end date of stay is given after many opportunities for progress and development have been offered, but this is done on a case by case basis rather than a rule across the board.
What sort of next steps may someone take from Base Camp? Is there a broader continuum of care that is offered?
There is both an internal and an external continuum of care that is offered to guests at Base Camp. Internally, in addition to the working dorm that is offered to working clients at Base Camp, the Mission offers both a men’s and women’s recovery program. These programs offer relapse prevention support, discipleship, on-site intensive case management, life skills classes and a supportive community to grow and heal. The Mission’s programs do not exist in a vacuum though. The broader Bellingham-Whatcom County community also offers a continuum of care that provides access to everything from rental assistance, legal support, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, clean and sober transitional housing and more. Through our strong partnerships with other agencies, Base Camp guests are offered access to both our internal continuum of care and the broader resources in our community.
What does LMM’s Good Neighbor Project entail?
The Good Neighbor Project was developed by LMM to enhance the community feel of ‘neighbors helping neighbors’, and build a community-partnered response to homelessness that mitigates potential challenges as a community, where we focus on helping the most vulnerable while adding value to the downtown core. We accomplish this with a dedicated full-time Downtown Liaison staff member that leads a volunteer alley cleanups, a Neighborhood Advisory Group for stakeholders, and outreach to people experiencing homelessness downtown, so that we might confidently and compassionately solve problems together. As Base Camp moves back to Old Town, LMM commits to continuing to build on the Good Neighbor Project’s success in its new location.
Where will the entrance be at this facility? Will people line up outside?
One of the incredible parts of this new facility is that like at the current Base Camp location on Cornwall Ave, there are separate sleeping and dayroom spaces. This allows people to line up for nightly check-in inside the common day area space prior to going to another floor where the beds will be located. The guest entrance to this facility will be located off of Astor St. This entrance will be a critical part of the new site design and is undergoing significant review to ensure that the design maximizes safety and aesthetic for guests and neighbors.
Many Holly St. neighbors most likely remember the long lines outside the Drop-In Center at 1013 W. Holly St. This was due to the fact that everyone had to leave the building for cleaning, sanitation and bed set-up to happen. The same space that was used for the dayroom was also used for the dining room and for sleeping quarters. Since moving to Cornwall Ave. We have had separate spaces for these uses and will continue this design in the new site.
How many staff will be on at one time? How are they trained?
Currently, from 7am-10pm there will be at minimum 3 staff persons on at all times at Base Camp and during the daytime there are often 5 staff on at once, in addition to our Neighborhood Liaison. From 10pm-7am we go down to 2 staff at a time. In comparison, this is an increase in staff from when we were most recently located on Holly St. in the Drop-In Center building. The new proposed facility will have additional staff working within the specialized shelters.
Staff go through a lengthy training process that includes training in boundaries, suicide prevention, trauma-informed care, mandatory reporting, addiction recovery principals, loving & serving vulnerable people groups well, and Crisis Prevention Institute’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training.
What partnerships does LMM lean on to address the complexities of low-barrier shelter and the variety of needs of shelter residents in general?
This work cannot be done in a vacuum. LMM leans heavily on many community partners including but not limited to the GRACE Team, the Opportunity Council and specifically the Homeless Outreach Team, SeaMar Community Health Center, Compass Health, PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s Hospital, Crisis Respite and Detox, the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom EMS, the Bellingham Police Department, and the Bellingham Public Library. As can be seen from this list, there are professionals that frequent Base Camp and offer support to our guests that have backgrounds ranging from the medical field, to behavioral health services, to housing services, to justice involvement, to community impact.
Why would someone have a safety restriction or trespass placed on them? How long are those for? How does LMM mitigate potential impacts of restrictions/trespasses?
Safety restrictions and trespasses are not taken lightly by staff. We hold that the most difficult person to work with is the person that we never see. So, even if someone is on a safety restriction or trespass, our hope is that our Outreach Team and Crisis Services staff is able to offer life saving supplies, relationship, and continued invitation back into services–even if that is not done at Base Camp itself.
Except in extreme safety situations, safety restrictions and trespasses are given in gradually increasing increments, beginning often with a 24 hour restriction and slowly increasing up to a multiple month trespass by the Bellingham Police Department. As much as possible LMM staff seek to avoid an official trespass. As of May 18, 2021 there are a total of 9 people on official trespass from Base Camp. Restrictions and trespasses are issued because of significant safety concerns and consistent non-compliance to community norms that result in a negative community impact.
What measures will be in place to ensure safety in this area?
The site plan has been carefully thought out and will include best-practice Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) Principles to minimize unsafe or destructive behavior and encourage positive activities desired within the Old Town area. Examples include best-practice lighting standards and natural surveillance through the use of strategically placed windows and positive activity generators. There will be one entrance and one exit on the Astor St side of the property that is considered a critical part of our safety design. This is undergoing significant review to ensure safety and aesthetic for our guests and neighbors. There will be a separate entrance for families on the southwest side of the building. The facility will have video surveillance, be staffed 24/7, and staff will walk around the building regularly to check on things.
Why does Base Camp need to move again?
The current location on Cornwall Ave has been intended to be a three to four year temporary solution while a new permanent location is developed.
Why this location?
Old Town has been the home of Lighthouse Mission Ministries for nearly a century. The proximity to downtown remains necessary to reach the majority of our community’s chronically homeless individuals. “It’s easier to site an airport downtown than a 24hr homeless service center,” says our Executive Director, as evidenced by various neighborhoods’ pushback when other downtown locations have been under consideration. “After much study, a new building on property we already own is the best option to meet all of our needs,” our Executive Director says. We are extremely grateful for our Old Town neighbors who have already experienced the Mission’s operations in this neighborhood for decades, and know what to expect.
Does the Mission plan to address the potential for increased litter?
Yes, we realize that this could create the potential for increased litter in the surrounding area. Here are a few things we plan to do to help prevent that: We will have multiple trash bins at the entrance of the facility and immediate surrounding area. Our staff will do regular rounds and look out for litter around the building. We also plan to develop a mobile team that will be connecting with folks in Old Town as well as picking up litter. We are also developing monthly group service projects to beautify the neighborhood.
What branch of Christianity is Lighthouse Mission associated with, and in what ways does this influence the shelter?
The Mission is a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization. We aren’t affiliated with any particular denomination but there are many different kinds of churches that support us. You can find our vision, values, and statement of faith here. Our being apprenticed to Jesus Christ is what motivates us, and it’s this deeply held conviction to follow Jesus that gives us the drive to consistently walk in friendship and care with our homeless neighbors. We work hard to not discriminate in any of the services we offer, and therefore we have no religious requirements to receive help. However, the vast majority of our guests prefer the spiritual emphasis we voluntarily offer. Here are a few ways our Christian faith plays out: a staff member or volunteer offering to pray with a guest, offering a mix of classes including ones that are faith-saturated, having regular small group Bible studies and worship times that people are welcome to check out, pastoral counseling, and encouraging folks to join a church family if that is something they are interested in.
Why does LMM not provide space for people to use drugs on property or in their own building?
LMM seeks to be radically hospitable to people experiencing homelessness by providing safe, therapeutic, motivational spaces where people can connect with next step services, access food and shelter, and develop healthy relationships. Though our recovery programs are clean and sober, the vast majority of people accessing our Base Camp services are also pursuing recovery. Having people mis-use substances right next to them while they are trying to take the fragile first steps toward recovery can and does undo the hard work that they are putting in–the sights, the sounds, and the access to drugs, THC, or alcohol all can easily derail others. LMM acknowledges that people are at various stages of change and may need to develop trust, stabilize with some services prior to making significant change decisions, so we work with people who are at an early stage or still pondering recovery–at this point Base Camp staff communicate hope, equip people with options, services and support, and celebrate each step taken. LMM staff are committed to reaching out and engaging with folks still in the midst of addiction, while balancing that with creating safe spaces for people to pursue change in our programs.
How will Base Camp affect the businesses and homes in the area?
LMM, the City of Bellingham, and Bellingham Police Department are implementing plans and policies to deter illegal conduct around the proposed new Base Camp site. At the Drop-In Center’s former location in Old Town, shelter guests and non-guests regularly congregated along and set up encampments in the public right-of-way. LMM staff do not have the authority or ability to police individuals on public property, but at the new location, multiple large outdoor deck spaces have been designed to better accommodate individuals who tend to congregate at or near the shelter. LMM staff also frequently walk the perimeter and can address and/or bar individuals who are engaging in problematic behaviors. Large windows, clear lines of sight and extensive security cameras make it much easier to monitor the site and surrounding area. Additional strategies are underway to further deter loitering or camping in tents and/or vehicles adjacent to the Site.
Additionally, LMM will be required to adhere to all safety and security conditions within the City’s Interim Housing Code (BMC 20.15A). Through the review process, the City and LMM will also develop appropriate strategies and conditions to address concerns raised during the 14-day public comment period. In doing so, it is our hope that the community will not only remain safe, but also become a safer place than it was previously. Without this homeless services location, residents and businesses would be negatively impacted by many additional people who are unsheltered and without access to food or hygiene facilities.
Who is making this project possible?
People like you who provide the financial fuel, volunteer, advocate, and pray, and otherwise support this incredible work. Give today at www.thelighthousemission.org/donation
If you have any other questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to hear from you and we are here to help. Thank you so much for your care and concern in breaking barriers, transforming lives, and building this community together!