There is good news to report for the future of Homes NOW’s Unity Village since I last wrote here January 16, 2020! The temporary tiny home community for homeless people, currently in Fairhaven, will have a new location this spring.
Homes NOW Board Chairman Douglas Gustafson shared details of the positive outcome with me after a recent weekly meeting when he and Homes NOW Vice-Chair Markis Stidham met with City of Bellingham (COB) Planning Director Rick Sepler and Police Chief David Doll. Director Sepler indicated to Gustafson and Stidham that, at the direction of Mayor Seth Fleetwood, he would be working to find a COB-owned site for Homes NOW. Sepler also indicated that the next site would allow the tiny home community to stay put for the two year maximum allowed by the tiny home ordinance (see my previous article for that document). The six month permit for the city-owned site at 210 McKenzie Ave. expires April 30, 2020. While that permit cannot be extended (for technical, legal, or other reasons I do not really understand), the COB has granted the organization an extra two or three weeks beyond April 30th to help in the transition to the new site. The new location has yet to be announced but will be available for occupancy by May 1st. The additional two to three weeks at the current site will allow more time for the labor-intensive and logistically complex move of 20 tiny homes, dining and kitchen tent, cooking area, porta potties, shower truck, shipping container-sized storage units, fencing, other infrastructure, the residents, and their belongings.
This move will be costly and will require the help of many volunteers and vehicles to assist with the physical packing and moving. The organization has increased their fundraising efforts in preparation. To donate or sign up to volunteer, please visit HomesNow.org or their Facebook page for volunteers.
Gustafson says, “I thank Mayor Fleetwood for stepping up to help with allowing us to continue our emergency housing program. Thank you Director Sepler and Chief Doll for continuing to work with Homes NOW in partnership. We hope the City will continue to work with Homes NOW in the foreseeable future in order to help house our homeless neighbors.”
I echo Gustafson’s sentiments. Thank you very much, Mayor Fleetwood, Director Sepler, and Chief Doll! Even though the move will be challenging and a bit disruptive, I know the residents and Homes NOW Board and volunteers are very relieved and grateful to have the ongoing support of the city and many people in our community.