Housing and Homeless Services Program

Latest News:
8/6/20: ​New Funding to Support Rent and Mortgage Payments Now Available in Whatcom County

The Whatcom County Health Department is working with local partners to implement two new housing assistance programs funded by the CARES Act that will provide over $3,300,000 for Whatcom County households that have been financially impacted by COVID-19. The health department expects that approximately 200 households earning between 50% and 80% of the area median income will be served with the CARES Housing Assistance funding, which will be available until the end of the year, or until funds are exhausted, and significantly more households will benefit from the CARES Eviction Rent Assistance Program (ERAP), which will also be available until the end of the year, or until funds are exhausted.

The first program, CARES Housing Assistance, will spend approximately $700,000 of federal CARES funding to support local households that lost income due to COVID-19 and are behind on housing payments or lack the resources to pay current rent or mortgage payments. Whatcom County residents earning 50-80% of the area median income are encouraged to apply. In addition to meeting the income requirements, eligible households must have experienced income loss due to COVID-19, lack resources to pay their rent or mortgage, hold the lease or mortgage contract for their home, and not be receiving other funding intended for the same purpose.


Households in the 50-80% AMI range who are seeking assistance through the CARES Housing Assistance program are encouraged to contact the Opportunity Council at 360-734-5121 x316, LAW Advocates at 360-671-6079 x15, or the Salvation Army at 360-733-1410 to make an appointment to verify eligibility and complete an application.

A second, larger pool of funding will also be made available to Whatcom households earning less than 50% of the area median household ($2,492/month for one person or $3,554 for a family of four). This funding is provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce and is called the Eviction Rent Assistance Program (ERAP). The ERAP program will distribute approximately $2,689,000 and will be available until the end of the year or until funds are exhausted.

Both programs will issue checks directly to landlords or mortgage lenders on behalf of residents after collecting the necessary documents that verify eligibility. Households eligible for ERAP funding will have earned 50% AMI or less over the previous two months and should contact the Opportunity Council at 360-734-5121 x316 to schedule an appointment to verify eligibility and complete an application.


About The Whatcom County Health Department Housing And Homeless Services Program



Stable housing is the foundation upon which people build and improve their lives.

The Human Services Housing Program provides opportunities in the community to create safe housing options. Together with public and private partners and with Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness, we work to reduce and ultimately end homelessness in our community.

The Housing Program manages state and federal contracts and local recording surcharge funds designated for affordable and homeless housing.  Our office does not provide direct housing assistance or services, however, we maintain a strong relationship with local providers within Whatcom County.

If you are currently experiencing homelessness, or if you encounter someone in a homeless camp who might need help or resources, please call the Opportunity Council's Homeless Outreach Team at 360-312-3717.
  

Services


The work of the Housing Program:
 
  • Facilitates community-wide planning, participates in regional planning
  • Awards funds to organizations that directly assist people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with housing and services
  • Updates and oversees implementation of the Plan to End Homelessness
  • Conducts annual Point in Time Count of homeless people
  • Acts as liaison to Department of Commerce's Housing Assistance Unit
  • Represents the community as HUD's Continuum of Care lead
  • Provides housing and service related advocacy on behalf of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness

Point In Time Count Report

The Opportunity Council and the Whatcom County Health Department recently published results of the 2019 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, an annual snapshot of homelessness in our community. This year’s results show the largest decrease in homelessness since 2012, with 14% fewer individuals living homeless than in 2018. Participants in the count cited eviction or loss of housing as the most common factor that contributed to their homelessness.

The decrease in homelessness in 2019 is in part attributable to the new 22 North supportive housing facility, expanded programming to support individuals facing homelessness, and the services provided by several local non-profit agencies who in 2018 collectively helped 2,281 individuals to find temporary or permanent housing, or financial assistance to prevent homelessness.

Five hundred and fifteen (515) households comprised of 700 individuals who spent the night homeless were counted in the January 2019 Point-In-Time Count. Of those:

  • 280 households were sheltered, meaning they had a temporary place to stay.
  • 234 households were unsheltered, meaning they did not have a place to stay. Unsheltered people often sleep in a car or on the street.
  • 119 individuals were aged 55 or older.
  • 72 households were families with children (207 individuals).
  • 394 households were single-person adult households.

Nearly half (47%) of the individuals identified as female, and the median age of all respondents was 37. Fifty-one (51) veterans were counted.

About one in five respondents had been homeless for more than a year, and approximately two out of three respondents last had a permanent residence in Whatcom County before becoming homeless. When asked what contributed to their lack of housing, participants identified eviction or loss of housing (identified by 43% of respondents), job loss or unemployment (31%), mental illness (27%), physical health or disability (22%), alcohol or substance abuse (22%), and domestic violence (22%) as the most common contributing factors.

The PIT Count Report also highlights elevated rates of homelessness for people of color, people with disabilities, people who have been institutionalized, and people that identify as LGBTQ.

The 2019 Whatcom County Point-In-Time Count took place during the week of January 21, 2019. The count is conducted annually by volunteers in every county in the U.S. as required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The PIT Count is widely acknowledged to be an undercount because participation is voluntary, some people experiencing homelessness cannot be located, and because the definition of homelessness excludes individuals, such as couch-surfers or doubled-up families, who don’t have a home. Still, the report highlights important components of homelessness in our community, and consistent surveying practices means that the results enable useful year to year comparisons.

The full report can be accessed with the link below:
https://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/41651/PIT2019



Performance Measures

 
Contracted housing partners receiving Consolidated Homeless Grant (CHG) funding through Whatcom County Health Department. Please access updated CHG Mandatory Performance Measures from the Washington State Department of Commerce specific to Whatcom County using the link below:

CHG Performance Measures (Whatcom County)

Department of Commerce Housing Website

Whatcom County Case Management Report Template

Whatcom County Emeregency Shelter and Transitional Housing Report Template

Whatcom County Permanent Supportive Housing Report Template

 

Housing Resources


If you're looking for a place to rent, click HERE for a list of local housing to try.  If you are at risk of becoming homeless, please contact the Whatcom Homeless Service Center as soon as possible to learn more about available resources.

Documents and Partners

Local Plan to End Homelessness


 City of Bellingham Housing and Human Services

 https://www.cob.org/services/housing


 Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services

http://www.dvsas.org 


Northwest Youth Services

http://www.nwys.org/


Whatcom Homeless Service Center

https://www.oppco.org/whsc/