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.
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
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.
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:
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:
City of Bellingham Housing and Human Services
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services
Northwest Youth Services
Whatcom Homeless Service Center