Author Event & Report from the Ground Floor
Ryan Berg, youth worker and author of No House to Call my Home, which reports on the plight of disowned LGBTQ youth in New York City, will be speaking to the public in Bellingham, Saturday May 18, at 6:30 pm at First Congregational Church at 2401 Cornwall Avenue.
The event was originally scheduled for the opening celebration of The Ground Floor, but was postponed due to the snow storm. The Ground Floor is the church’s name for the space below its sanctuary, recently completed as Northwest Youth Services’ (NWYS) new day center for local youth experiencing homelessness. Attendees can enjoy refreshments and Q&A after Berg speaks.
The evening will also feature staff from The Ground Floor, to report on the recent successes of the program and answer questions from the audience.
The new, 3,500-square-foot center will is operated rent-free by Northwest Youth Services. It offers a safe, warm and welcoming place for young people (ages 13-24) to relax, shower, do laundry, nap, study, cook, eat, and get connected with programs and services. NWYS began providing services in the new space January 28.
"The Ground Floor project is a very clear articulation of the priorities of our congregation," said Rev. David Weasley, the church’s youth, young adult and mission pastor. "Relationships with our neighbors, building welcoming space, extending love in our community: all of these are the 'ground floor' of our faith."
Church members and supporters raised more than $1million to complete renovations, with some of the jobs — like digging plumbing trenches — accomplished by volunteers. RMC Architects and Pearson Construction also donated time to the project.
“It's so cool that this place is for us. Anywhere where we are welcome is where I want to be. This place is really needed,” said one of the youth at Northwest Youth Services.
The Ground Floor is a secular project. The church’s role is limited to providing rent-free space to Northwest Youth Services, or, should the time come when they no longer need the space, another nonprofit serving the community with justice work.
Youth Homelessness in Bellingham
Young people in Bellingham and across the country often end up homeless because of family breakdown, abuse or abandonment. Of the 700+ people unsheltered on any given day in Bellingham, 24% are under 18; 6% between 16-21 years old. More than 30% of youth report a mental health disability and 27% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer; less than 1% have been released from juvenile detention. (Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness 2017 Annual Report)
First Congregational Church
Established in 1883, Bellingham’s First Congregational is an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Its pews are filled with people interested in both the intellectual questions of faith and the transcendent power of the sacred, experienced and explored in community. Known for its extravagant welcome, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here,” First Congregational/UCC is a progressive and vibrant group of humans wrestling with both the theoretical understanding and daily practice of a theology of love. www.fccb.net
Northwest Youth Services
Northwest Youth Services is a non-profit organization serving young people ages 13-24 experiencing homelessness in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Northwest Youth Services collaborates with at-risk, runaway and homeless youth to foster self-reliance, supporting youth in identifying goals and building the skills necessary to reach their own sense of stability. www.nwys.org
Rev. David C. R. Weasley
Pastor for Youth, Young Adults, and Mission