Warming Shelter Details; Why It’s Not Full; Sweeps!? Much More; Song: Bury Me In My Overalls

CONTENTS 2/9/2021
Warming Shelter Update
  Update For Volunteers
  More Details.
  Why It’s Not Full
  Emergency Storage?
  Sweeps?!
  Geri Fields
  Emails To Electeds
  Soup Brigade
  Laundry Brigade
  Ski Pants Needed
Handyman Recommendation
Radio Free Fl!p: Bury Me In My Overalls

WARMING SHELTER UPDATE

I sent a blog immediately with a couple next steps. Here’s what I was thinking three hours later, with a few edits:

1. Thank the City!

2. Ask City and County council to convene emergency meetings and get the next sets of tiny homes approved. HomesNOW has their paperwork all in order.

Put the request for an extra meeting in the subject line. They are getting so many emails they don’t have time to read the whole thing.

3. We still need to feed and succor those still hiding and sleeping in the woods and behind buildings for fear of being swept. This requires volunteers who are already known to the people we are trying to aid. We’re still working on getting enough volunteers to do daily delivery. For right now you can sign up directly with me to make a dinner for 25. We’ll work out the details together, including which day. Put Soup Brigade in the subject line. I’m getting lots of emails too.

4. Food for folks at the warming shelter: Due to liability, they can only allow commercial packages. Packaged snacks, oatmeal, tea, coffee, if donor identifies themselves. No restaurant food, no home cooked meals. Packaged snacks are welcome. (I wonder if cup-o-noodles will be permitted.) Many folks will be gone at 4:30 to get dinner at Base Camp.

5. Reach out now to your neighbors and start figuring out, as a community, where in your neighborhood you would like to host a Tiny Homes Village, while new permanent housing is being built. Each neighborhood (and EVERY neighborhood) will need to host a village. And we need very small, publicly owned low-income apartments scattered everywhere in Bellingham and every small town.

  I used to live next door to one of these. Very small single-bedroom apartments. Sixteen of them. Separate entrances from the outside. We never had a problem in all the years I lived next door. Three decades later the building still looks in good repair and peaceful. Neighbors.

6. The Warming Shelter would be a great place for detailed outreach by social workers and case workers. We need to figure out why Base Camp never filled and create plans that will work better in the future. One solution will not fit everyone. It is not fair to Base Camp to expect them to take everyone. Or to anyone else to not have other alternatives.

7. Write state and US congress people. State and federal financial support for real housing solutions will be necessary. Local governments are not allowed to spend more money than they have. The Feds can. The time is now for affordable housing.

UPDATE FOR VOLUNTEERS

NEW: The Opportunity Council Volunteer Center is coordinating volunteers for this effort. Please contact summer_starr@oppco.org for information, background check, and to sign up for shifts. Please fill out the Warming Site Volunteer Sign Up form to get started. Once you fill out the form you will be contacted to provide identification for a background check. When cleared you will be given instructions to sign up for a shift and provided training materials.

Summary of requirements for February 9-10, subject to change:

  • 10 p.m. is quiet time and lights out.
  • Masks are required.
  • Six feet of social distance required.
  • No drugs or alcohol are allowed on premises.
  • All weapons be will checked in with staff for safe keeping.
  • Some belongings permitted, maximum of one cart.
  • Service animals permitted.
  • Smoking allowed in designated areas only.
  • Maximum capacity is 35 people.
  • Donations
  • Prepackaged snacks and hand warmers are welcome donations. Please deliver to the front desk at the door facing Maple Street.
  • Currently, we are not taking donations in the form of clothing, prepared food, blankets, or other bedding materials at the Depot Market Square warming site.

MORE DETAILS

Rough Outreach Notes. Some of this is repetition, but most of if goes into deeper detail:

Depot Warming Center
First night Feb 9 th.
Opens for a week 24/7
*Cots to rest on with room for possessions underneath.  (Take possessions with you when you depart)
*Face /Mask covering nose/mouth while inside including sleeping. Provided to those that need.
*All Gender.
*Pets case by case on leash
*Any weapons check in
*Staff: Parks department & volunteers.
*Quiet Hours start 10 pm and lights dimmed.
*Small outdoor smoking area
*Once inside stay inside except for bathroom , smoke zone, and departing with stuff. (Ie -No in and out multiple times- case by case needs).
*Covid Questionaire for symptoms. (If test needed then BC might provide quick test )
*Lots of Parking
*No presence of Law Enforcement
*Updates on city website

https://cob.org/services/housing/homeless/winter-actions/temporary-warming-site-at-depot-market-square

WHY IT’S NOT FULL

It takes time for the word to spread. Maybe half a dozen sleepers last night. A dozen earlier this evening. Why so few? No advance time to get the word out. A year ago at the beginning of the big snow storm, I was out for my first-ever volunteer outreach trip. We found lots of folks on the street with no idea a storm was coming. Temperatures were plummeting. No phones, no internet, no newspapers, and too often, not enough personal connections to get the word via the grapevine.  There are some folks on the street who are isolated even from other people without shelter. It can be a deadly situation.

EMERGENCY STORAGE?

People risk losing their tents and supplies to theft or sweeps by going in to a shelter. There is so little storage space. I’d love to see a big locked metal shipping container that folks could roll their shopping carts into. Those assisting owners in could take a photo of the owners with their stuff, and attach it to their stuff for security.

SWEEPS?!

Tents in another part of Bellingham were tagged for sweeps earlier today, by what appeared to be a pair of officers. The homeless folks sleeping on the ground there were told they must remove all their belongings and go to either the Warming Center or Base Camp by 9:00 AM tomorrow.

There are a couple problems with this. First, people without homes cannot be required to go to some specific place, any more than you or I can be required. Second, the City has said there will be no more sweeps during this freeze. It’s quite possible that, like fatalities after an armistice has been signed to end a war, it takes time to get the many, complex moving parts of our city to all be moving in the same direction. But it’s heart-breaking that the folks who were threatened are now living with additional, unnecessary panic. I would hope the city will send a less frightening messenger tomorrow morning to let any tagged neighbors sleeping in the cold know that the sweep is not coming at least until this winter storm ends.

If we discover actual sweeps taking place instead of just being threatened, I will most assuredly publish that! I consider myself an Optimistic Catastrophist, assuming the worst, hoping for the best, or at least hoping that I can move the needle a little. One thing that occurs to me is that sweeps are not currently allowed to occupied sites. Such protections do not apply to unoccupied or abandoned sites. If people go to the warming shelter, they may come back when it closes in a week to find all their belongings gone, no way to replace them, and it will still be winter. Let’s watch out for our neighbor’s stuff. If you see a sweep underway, video, document. If you feel safe to approach, ask for details. Call the mayor’s office. And the media.

GERI FIELDS

Three portapotties and a dumpster were installed at Geri Fields with the support of SSC and the Parks Dept. That is SUCH good news! I’m hoping most sincerely that one of the portable toilets is wheelchair accessible. Earlier today, none was, and a woman was unable to get from her wheelchair to use the existing facility. But I am relieved that the Parks Department has chosen to provide basic sanitation. Bravo!

Geri Fields civic field encampment has been told they will not be swept during this extreme cold.

I have a large load of cardboard at our house that I would love to send down if someone is going anyway.

EMAILS TO ELECTEDS

Please write emails to all elected officials. Put Emergency Meeting Now in the subject line. Emergency meetings are needed even more because the warming shelter only holds 35! More shelters are very likely to be needed as the word gets out. But we’ve just been given a week’s grace to get other responses in place. Ask them to prepare right now. Remind them to stop the sweeps. Don’t be mean when you write. It doesn’t help! What helps is LOTS of letters. If you’ve already written, write again.

Bellingham
mayorsoffice@cob.org
ccmail@cob.org

Whatcom County
ssidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us
council@co.whatcom.wa.us

SOUP BRIGADE

We’ve been focusing the core of our hot meal efforts lately on folks hiding out in the woods, those who seem to have the least access to hot food.  I would love to have many more cooks sign up ASAP. We’re asking for 25 meals, but I’m happy to sign additional cooks up for 20 or even fewer for any night where I have skilled outreach volunteers to deliver it. Everything helps. Email me with Soup Brigade in the subject line, even though casseroles are even more welcome and much easier to transport.

I have 20# of red potatoes; rice, lentils, pasta, split peas, and soup base. Also onions, carrots, celery. Shredded Cheddar and some bacon. Some cans of cream of mushroom soup, and at least one big can of beans. I may have a pork loin by tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got containers in many shapes, and paper bakery bags, plus soup pots and giant casserole pans to loan. I’ve got some useful recipes as well.

Most cooks will need to deliver their hot meals to SwiftHaven Tiny Home Village, 1555 Puget in Civic Field, as soon after 5 PM as possible. It may be possible to arrange pick-up of your meals if needed. Let’s do this!!! At least for this week, I am hoping to have two or three cooks per night as outreach volunteers push themselves to the limit.

LAUNDRY BRIGADE

More volunteers are still needed to take home laundry, wash & dry, and return. I can put you in touch with the volunteer leading this effort.

SKI PANTS NEEDED

L or XL  men’s ski pants for a guy without shelter to wear over his regular pants. Does anyone have a pair? Any kind of ski clothing is a particularly great gift right now.

HANDYMAN RECOMMENDATION

“Handyman Tim” Anderson helped us out last week by switching out our old vanity/sink/faucet and toilet in our half-bath with newer versions. Tim was reliable with his communication, dependable in his arrival time, affordable, and quick to adapt in response to an unforeseen complication. I asked if he’d mind me recommending him, and he said it helps to get the word out. Tim is reachable at 253-886-0945 and Ralph.anderson93@yahoo.com.  ~ Jim Scarborough, Kulshan Street

RADIO FREE Fl!P: BURY ME IN MY OVERALLS

Larry Hanks (who used to live over on Williams Street) wrote a new verse to this song for Mike Marker, another local musician who recently passed.

https://www.facebook.com/deborah.robinshanks/videos/10157650918582854/

And here is Malvina Reynolds’ original song, sung by the incomparable Rosalie Sorrels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH4zIcWZs30

Love/Fl!p 360-671-4511  2518 Cherry Street flip@columbianeighborhood.org

If you’re willing to share your phone and address with me, personally, I would love that, and would not share it further without your express permission.

If you want to ask me to post something, just email me. If it’s urgent, phone. If it’s a real emergency, call 911.

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