Homelessness can be a frightening ordeal. You have nowhere to rest in private, nowhere to store food, nowhere to truly belong.
Having children makes the matter all the more urgent.
Some Whatcom County families are in this predicament right now. The 2016 point-in-time count of the homeless in Whatcom County showed that nearly 20 percent — 89 of the 497 households counted — were families with children, and one in four homeless people is a child under 18.
At any given moment, between 60 and 100 families are on the waitlist at Lydia Place, a local nonprofit organization that works to end the cycle of homelessness by providing housing for homeless families.
“We believe that a healthy community starts with healthy children, and we can’t have healthy children without healthy families,” says Emily O’Connor, Lydia Place’s executive director.
An important component of that mission, she says, is finding housing for those families who need it.
“It’s just one step,” O’Connor says, “but housing is a critical first component.”
Finding a home is much easier said than done, though. Apartment vacancy rates in Whatcom County are below 1 percent, and prices are high.
“In Bellingham, it’s nearly impossible to find a unit that’s available and that you can afford,” O’Connor says.
That’s where Landmark Real Estate Management comes in.
Troy Muljat, one of Landmark’s owners, thinks there’s no reason any family in Whatcom County should have to wait for stable housing. He’s begun working with Lydia Place to help find homes for local homeless families with children.
Landmark Real Estate Management is giving numerous incentives, including free property management service fees, to homeowners willing to provide housing to those on the homeless housing waiting list. Muljat hopes that before long, there will be no more homeless families in Whatcom County.
“A huge amount of our young population are in a very challenging situation,” O’Connor says. “We know that children in our program now will be clients in 15 to 20 years.”
Lydia Place, which has been working with local homeless mothers and their children since 1989, has seen homelessness run through families in cycles. Setting families up in stable housing and then helping them with parenting classes, mental health counseling and other services can disrupt this cycle, she says.
“We want these kids to be the last generation to experience homelessness,” O’Connor says. “That’s our goal, so it’s wonderful that leaders like Troy and partners like Landmark Real Estate Management have stepped up to say ‘We’re going to make that happen.’ What Landmark is doing is pretty special. They are going above and beyond.”