Submitted from Unity Care NW
Homelessness has been on the rise nationwide since 2016. In places like Whatcom County, the lack of available housing has made homelessness an even more prevalent and visible problem. Most Washingtonians can relate to the feeling that housing opportunities are becoming increasingly out of reach. The economic conditions of post-pandemic living and the high cost of living in our regions are deepening financial insecurity for all. Economic tensions lead to stresses that lead to conflict, as they threaten to exacerbate the challenges of Negative interactions between residents and non-residents are especially discouraging for those who hope they can come together as a community to end homelessness.
Organizations working to serve those experiencing homelessness have unique insights into this public health crisis. Unity Care NW (UCNW) is a local non-profit community health center that provides comprehensive health care to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Their staff sees firsthand the negative health effects of homelessness on patients. Many suffer from traumatic conditions, exacerbated by lack of access to basic sanitation. 15% of UCNW patients experience homelessness, compared to an average of 8% at other community health centers nationwide. can do something to fight the homeless Must do something
This allows UCNW to partner with PeaceHealth, Whatcom County, and the Opportunity Council to better serve the health and hygiene needs of those experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County. As a result of this collaboration, a new facility called The Way Station will provide showers, laundry and toilet facilities, as well as rest beds for those who have experienced medical emergencies and have nowhere to recover. . The Way Station also connects customers to Unity Care NW’s mental health and substance use disorder treatment and Opportunity Council’s housing assistance services.
This facility is housed in a county-owned building at 1500 N State Street. Renovations are expected to begin in early 2023, with an anticipated opening date of fall 2023.
empathy is the answer
While researching a successful sanitation center model, Way Station partners visited Seattle’s Urban Rest Stop. A common theme in our conversations with experts on homelessness is the power of dignity to restore hope and create a path out of homelessness. “Urban Rest Stop helped me clean to get a job,” said one client in testimony. “They treated me with fairness and dignity. Without these services, it would have been very difficult to improve my situation.” It models the empathetic, trauma-based approach we have used to effectively engage patients and neighbors who have
UCNW recently invited Ryan Dowd, executive director of America’s second-largest homeless shelter, to use empathy-driven approaches to compassionately and effectively mitigate situations and manage conflict. We trained our staff. UCNW also partnered with the City of Bellingham, Bellingham Public Library and Mount His Baker Theater to provide the same training to his 800+ staff at local businesses and non-profits. Empathy does not mean excusing and accepting all of a person’s negative behaviors, but by recognizing that their unique experiences and biology influence the way they navigate the world. Seeking to approach people. This can make all the difference for those on their journey out of homelessness.
People don’t need to be specially trained to help fight homelessness, and organizations don’t need to be dedicated to social services to help address the housing crisis. Everyone can do something to help solve the problem of homelessness. Unity Care NW is excited to deepen its own efforts to break the vicious cycle of homelessness. By partnering with The Way Station, we can help more people move into permanent housing by removing barriers to basic health and hygiene needs with a trauma-based, empathetic approach. .
To learn more about or participate in The Way Station, visit unitycarenw.org/health-and-hygiene.
About Unity Care NW
The mission of Unity Care NW (UCNW) is to extend the healthy life expectancy of the people and communities we serve. UCNW is a federally accredited health center with sites in Bellingham and Ferndale. Founded in 1982, this nonprofit provides medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services to over 22,000 Whatcom County residents who see Unity Care NW as their clinic . Services are available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.