City donates to county homelessness project
By Tara Nelson
The city of Blaine will join other Whatcom County cities in donating to county-wide projects to alleviate problems associated with homelessness.
In their regular meeting Monday, council voted 4-1, with Jason Overstreet voting no, to donate $800 to Project Homeless Connect, which will allow approximately 650 people experiencing homelessness to have access to free and confidential services such as dental, vision screening, mental health and medical services, as well as housing assistance.
The project is a combined effort of local non-profit agencies such as United Way, Whatcom Volunteer Center and Catholic Community Services’ homeless center.
Overstreet questioned how the organization had come up with the $800 figure and said while he thought it was a “worthwhile cause,” that he thought the charity would be better left to donations from the private sector.
“This does not in any way diminish the validity of this project,” he said. “I just think it would be better if we all privately donated to them.”
Council member Charlie Hawkins, however, disagreed. “We have a responsibility as a society to help people who have no help at all,” he said. “It’s hard for individuals to get together and do things like that.”
Council member Paul Greenough agreed. “I’ve been thinking about the role of government in Blaine since I was appointed earlier this year and, to me, it comes down to providing services that cannot, should not or would not be provided by others,” he said. “And while Jason’s point is well taken – there is a place for private donations – there is also a clear place for public donations and this is one of them.”
Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon said she would support the budget amendment because Blaine could see the biggest impact from such a project as it has the largest number of homeless people per capita. “I think we will stand to benefit directly as a result of this,” she said. “Especially in terms of law enforcement.”
The 650 people expected to receive assistance represent nearly half of the county’s “point-in-time” count that was conducted in January earlier this year. Forty percent of those are children and many are working adults.
Volunteers are also needed to volunteer on the day of the event.
People interesting in volunteering can attend informational seminars at the Whatcom Volunteer Center on Tuesday, December 16. Preregistration is required by calling 734-3055.