Submitted by Unity Care NW
Four million dollars was allocated in the state’s capital budget for a new facility where individuals and families experiencing homelessness can find a range of services to assist their transition to sustainable housing and access to social and health services. Unity Care NW, Opportunity Council, PeaceHealth and the Whatcom County Health Department, have partnered to repurpose Whatcom County’s 1500 N. State Street property as the location for a collaborative project called The Way Station.
The Way Station will serve homeless individuals in need of hygiene, medical and behavioral health services, and/or medical respite. Medical respite is care for homeless persons who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. Patients experiencing homelessness who are discharged from the hospital but require space where they can recuperate and heal on a temporary basis can do so safely at The Way Station. They can also access wrap around services, including help into long-term housing.
Rep. Sharon Shewmake made the funding request for the collaboration. Of the Way Station, Rep. Shewmake said, “This project hits it all—housing, caring for community, saving money and helping to get people better and in housing.”
The work of health care providers is made more difficult by a lack of community hygiene facilities. Health care providers worry about the spread of disease resulting from inadequate sanitation. Simply providing access to shower and laundry facilities, greatly reduces the risk of infection to the individual and the larger community. The Way Station will make these essential hygiene services more widely available to homeless individuals.
Project scope and services:
- Recuperative respite care staffed 24-7 to provide a quiet environment for recovery from a medical event.
- Health care services provided by Unity Care (Medical, Behavioral Health services, & Substance Use Treatment) with expanded access to laboratory testing for illness, vaccine administration, and health monitoring.
- Hygiene services: restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a hot room to treat belongings to prevent illness.
- Case management services linking visitors and respite residents with social services and healthcare resources.
- Connections to stable housing from Housing Case Managers from the Opportunity Council who will offer supportive pathways for patients to transition out of homelessness.
This unique collaboration involves many community partners who have been engaged since the start in researching models, touring facilities, and envisioning The Way Station. “We are thrilled our collaboration will be moving forward with this project, which has been a strategic priority for us for over 3 years,” said Chris Kobdish, Director of Planning & Development at Unity Care NW, “15% of our patients experience homelessness and The Way Station will make it possible to better serve them.”
The Whatcom County owned site provides adequate square footage to support the planned services and is close to transportation facilities and other social and health services including the Opportunity Council and Unity Care NW.
“The Way Station will provide a broad array of services—healthcare, hygiene, case management, and more—all at one location, significantly expanding our community’s ability to assist our homeless population,” said County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “Our partners have been instrumental in building momentum to get this project off the ground. I also greatly appreciate our legislators’ efforts in Olympia to secure state funding that, together with local resources, will help us address a gap in services for the unhoused.”
The team is working with RMC Architects to finalize the facility’s design.