I hope that you are finding ways to connect and support one another as our nights get longer and our winds get colder. When I think of my own hospitality practices, I try to keep up with the hospitality offered at The Ground Floor. As you might know, First Congregational hosts The Ground Floor, a program of Northwest Youth Services that offers youth experiencing homelessness a daytime space to connect with resources, do some laundry, take a nap, grab a shower, and more. I recently got an update from Rowan, and they invited me to share it with all of you:
Hello First Congregational!
It is with a warm heart that I share with you some updates about the Ground Floor as we head into winter.
The summer and fall brought a lot of new faces to the Ground Floor. At the time of writing this letter we have seen 370 unique youth this year, and we have 5 new staff since August! We have already surpassed the number of youth we saw from last year and can definitely feel the effects of demand for our services increasing, thus the additional staff.
We are thankful to be in a place with our financial partners to expand our staffing model and bring more advocates on board. Youth are coming to our door needing assistance with many types of services, from getting an ID or birth certificate to applying for an apartment or getting on our housing wait list. We are looking forward to being able to meet the full demand for these low-barrier case management services soon.
As winter is coming into full swing we are seeing the need for more shelter services in our community and we are thankful that the city of Bellingham is partnering with Northwest Youth Services again to create a Winter Shelter. This facility will be at Civic Field and will only be offered in the evening hours. Ground Floor staff have been passing along all that we learned in winter 2019/2020 when the Winter Shelter was in the basement of First Congregational, we are so glad that this isn’t our first rodeo! It will be incredible to have an age appropriate resource for overnight shelter available this winter. The start date will be in the first weeks of December and it will run through March.
Another exciting update from this last fall was the success of our Vaccine Equity project. We were able to offer financial assistance in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and in the end we got 46 young adults fully vaccinated! It was a remarkable accomplishment from our Street Outreach and Ground Floor staff. It feels great to have so many young vulnerable people protected from COVID-19.
Other than that the young folks and staff looking forward to the holidays here at the Ground Floor. We will have a big community meal on Thanksgiving and we are planning to have cookies and a movie marathon on Christmas.
We are feeling optimistic looking ahead into 2022, that our services will continue to expand an adapt, that youth will find safe and stable housing that works for them, and COVID-19 rates will continue to drop in our community.
-Rowan Salton (they/her), The Ground Floor Manager
Thanks, Rowan, for sharing all of this good news, and thanks to all of you who support The Ground Floor with your contributions, your prayers, and in so many other ways.
I hope you will take some time this Advent to see how the Spirit is calling you to make space in your life and heart. Maybe you are being called to help build a world where young people all have a safe place to rest!
Yours in Home-Making,