Lighthouse Mission Ministries recently launched an effort to support businesses and residents near its new Base Camp location in downtown Bellingham.
Base Camp continues to shelter people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 17, it moved to the Bellingham Public Market building at 1530 Cornwall Ave. Base Camp will operate there for 3-4 years while a new permanent location is developed.
The Good Neighbor Project offers businesses and residents a multifaceted approach to maintaining a safe and attractive area, according to Lighthouse Mission Ministries. It aims to increase awareness about homelessness; keep the area clean; and give practical tips and training on how to interact compassionately with neighbors who are homeless.
One new initiative is a bimonthly Neighborhood Advisory Group, recently formed by Lighthouse Mission to hear the voices and concerns of the neighborhood and generate solutions as a group. Any community members can contact a dedicated staff member with questions and concerns about Base Camp: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lighthouse Mission also is adding a staff member to do litter patrol in the neighborhood directly surrounding Base Camp. It plans to partner with local faith communities to clean up multiple downtown alleys this summer.
“We want to be good neighbors,” said Hans Erchinger-Davis, Executive Director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries. “I hope it will ease the minds of business owners to know that we care, are taking things seriously, and have the capacity and expertise to help.”
The Lighthouse Mission is developing further outreach efforts (beyond its existing Street Connect program) to invite individuals experiencing homelessness out of the downtown core and into Base Camp services, he added. The 24/7 enhanced shelter offers the following services: free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, restrooms, laundry, showers, resource referrals, case management, emotional and spiritual support, a cafe, and voluntary prayer and Bible studies.
Base Camp offers space for up to 200 adults to get a good night’s rest and a place to productively spend the day. This facility has a dedicated nighttime sleeping space and a community room for day use and eating meals. Showers and laundry facilities have been installed as well as a large privacy-fenced courtyard so people can safely spend time outdoors on the property.
Anyone who needs a safe place to stay or a meal is welcome at Base Camp, and services are offered without discrimination, Erchinger-Davis said.
“By maintaining social distancing and health practices, Base Camp benefits our entire community,” he added.
Lighthouse Mission invites downtown businesses to join their pilot Advantages Program. It’s a way for businesses to show they care about homelessness and want to do something to help. Businesses will offer a free item or service to Base Camp guests during certain hours determined by the business.
With the Advantages Program, employees will get the opportunity to have positive interactions with neighbors who are homeless, Erchinger-Davis said. Lighthouse Mission anticipates this project to have the positive result of reduced loitering near partnering businesses.
Lighthouse Mission Ministries has been helping people who are homeless since 1923. It cares for up to 310 people each day and provides a continuum of services aimed at ending homelessness through street outreach, enhanced shelters, addiction recovery, Christian programs, and aftercare.