Helping Vulnerable People Who Need Housing – Challenges and Solutions


Imagine your life without a home. How safe and secure do you feel? What happens when you are sick? Where do you sleep when the snow is falling? Now imagine having a mental illness, an addiction, or a different type of chronic illness or disability, and no home. Imagine your child or someone you love in that situation.

In Whatcom County, at any point in time, 500 people are homeless – living in emergency shelter, on the streets, in parks, under bridges, and in cars. We are teenagers, elderly, veterans and we are families with young children. The reasons for our homelessness are as varied as we are.

As local nonprofits collaborate to reduce homelessness, serious challenges are emerging: rapidly rising rental costs and low vacancy rates; persistent, high unemployment; reduced federal funding; and sometimes neighborhood opposition to special needs housing.

On October 24th, two pioneers of the innovative “housing-first” movement will describe their efforts to help communities understand the benefits of providing housing stability to people who have the most complex challenges in finding and keeping housing, people who community members may view as “un-housable.” Bill Hobson, Executive Director of DESC in Seattle, and Dr. Sam Tsemberis, CEO of Pathways to Housing in New York City, will be joined by moderator Greg Winter, Director of the Whatcom Homeless Service Center at the Opportunity Council.