While many of us see those systems as what protect us from unpleasant sights and smells, without them we would also be susceptible to deadly diseases like Hepatitis A, cholera, and dysentery. Those without permanent housing often lack reliable access to water and sewage systems. But many of our Bellingham neighbors live in RVs and motor homes in various states of repair and mobility.  

That means a significant challenge of RV living is how to dispose of sewage and human waste in a way that’s environmentally sound, affordable, humane, and safe for both individuals and the public. Enter Opportunity Council’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), a dedicated group of staff who help people experiencing homelessness by lending support and connecting them with resources and housing.  

HOT partnered with the City of Bellingham Public Works Department’s Natural Resources Division and the private company Honey Bucket to start a Pilot RV Pumping Project. Affectionately referred to as “Poop Patrol” by some HOT members, this vital service helps take away a major barrier to people’s health and quality of homes. 

HOT works as an advance team for the project to make sure everything goes smoothly. HOT makes the rounds to all the RVs in a designated area and asks whether clients would like their black water pumped out, letting folks know more about the program and the process.  

Leading up to the event, HOT makes reminder calls, and is then present for the event to knock on doors, answer questions, and help the Honey Bucket team move to the next RV.  Honey Bucket staff briefly and respectfully engage with clients to let them know what to expect, and then they start pumping.  

A Honey Bucket truck is parked alongside an RV, as people in neon yellow vests stand by and a man wearing neon-striped gear lies in the street, pumping black water with a hose from the bottom of an RV.

Members of Opportunity Council's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) stand by, collaborating with the City of Bellingham Public Works Department to pump black water from neighborhood RVs.

People in neon yellow gear stand in a street, one holding a Stop sign to direct traffic, two walking alongside a large Honey Bucket truck.

Members of the HOT team work with the City of Bellingham. Here, they walk alongside the Honey Bucket truck as it makes its rounds to RVs of community members interested in the program.