July 9 Statement Regarding 22 North 

From Greg Winter, executive director of Opportunity Council: 

We were dismayed to hear of Council Member Elenbaas’ resolution seeking to cut off funding for 22 North, a crucial community lifeline to people who are fighting for their lives. 22 North welcomes people who have experienced homelessness, who have invariably suffered great trauma and who are too often experiencing complex medical issues and disabilities. 

It’s imperative that we continue to care for the 40 people who make their home at 22 North. The loss of their homes would be catastrophic to each individual and to the community’s efforts to support the most vulnerable in our community.   

It is beyond me how someone could, in good conscience, force these people out of their homes. As a community, we have a moral responsibility to make sure everyone has access to a home–especially the most vulnerable among us. Those are the people who would be put back on the street by this resolution.  

As shown in Whatcom County’s most recently available Point-In-Time Count (the annual report on homelessness), the number of homeless seniors has increased by 124% since 2019. As the report states, “Compounding this issue is that individuals experiencing homelessness and aged 50+ are more frequently experiencing health complications normally found in populations aged 70+ due to the difficult conditions they endure while unhoused.” 

The most recent Point-In-Time Count also reveals that half of people who are homeless in Whatcom County are dealing with mental illness (49 percent) and a third have chronic health conditions (33 percent). Additionally, the number of people experiencing homelessness while also suffering from chronic substance use more than doubled, from 16% in 2022 to 34% in 2023. Each of these individuals deserves a safe and supportive place to live.  

22 North is on the front lines of converging crises in our community—many of us are experiencing the results of the rising cost of living, the opioid epidemic, the lack of affordable homes, and a strained healthcare system—and each of these crises take a disproportionate toll on our vulnerable community members.  Our staff has increased welfare checks for residents in response to the opioid epidemic and continues to follow best practices to support our clients. 

We are resolved in our commitment to ensure everyone has access to a safe place to call home and committed to working with community partners, law enforcement, local residents, and City, County, and State governments to build community-based solutions for community problems.  

We will continue to provide those people currently making their homes at 22 North with care, community, and wraparound services. This includes ensuring access to treatment, partnerships with local neighbors and law enforcement, and the continuing implementation of evidence-informed best practices and policies.