Bellingham is home to many wonderful non-profits working tirelessly behind the scenes to build a stronger community. This was originally an article for Southside Living Magazine written by 2roofs’ co-founder Sean Hall and features local nonprofit Lydia Place.
As I Interview Emily O’Connor, director of Lydia Place, I was struck by her immense heart and great leadership in our community. When I asked about her mission she said, “What we want to do is to pull back the veil on what it means to be homeless in Whatcom County. These are simply our friends and our neighbors. They have faces and stories. Many were not born into privilege like some of us were. They have experienced trauma in their lives and are working to overcome it.”
From its modest beginnings in 1989, Lydia Place has grown from a single transitional housing program to a multi-campus organization helping over one hundred local families at a time. Lydia Place provides wrap around support in the areas of rental subsidies, housing placement, parental support and even in-home counseling services. Through their Landmark Partnership program they have the goal of housing all families with children who have been on their waiting list by the end of 2018.
Emily shared with me about the multifaceted problem we face with ending local homelessness. She said, “Over forty percent of households in Whatcom County are struggling to make ends meet. It’s complicated and stems from not simply a lack of affordable housing, but also things like insufficient health care, lack of jobs and mental health problems. Even a lack of childcare options can put a major strain on a family. Take a single mother with young kids. What is she to do at this time of year when school gets out? How can she go to work and leave young kids at home?”
A Changed Life
Emily shared the story of one such single mother who recently reached out to Lydia Place for help. She was pregnant and had been living with her two children in a mobile home without electricity or running water. Through the Landmark Program they were able to find a local landlord who would work with Lydia Place to accept subsidized funding. The mother and her children are now housed and receiving support in rent assistance, parental education and counseling services.
Last year my 2roofs team at Windermere was honored to receive a Housing Hero Award from Lydia Place. Our team donates a portion of our fee from every home sale to a partner Non Profit. We were able to finish a room in one of Lydia Place’s long term subsidized housing units. A mother and child who had been living in their car now live in there. Getting to be a part of great work like what Lydia Place does is by far the most exciting thing about being a social entrepreneur.
How You Can Help
For Emily, what excites her most about her job as director is the amount of local community involvement she sees. Lydia place operates on over ten thousand hours of volunteerism yearly. They also operate on a budget that is 75% funded by the community. Only 25% comes from the government. And with a 1.7 million budget every donated dollar counts. If you would like to support the work of Lydia Place or become a volunteer you can visit their website at lydiaplace.org. Also, if you are planning to buy or sell a home simply choose 2roofs as your Realtor and ask that Lydia Place be the recipient Non Profit.
The key to making real headway, Emily says, is not to be shortsighted. “As a community we need to really ask ourselves what we value. Do we want kids sleeping in cars? Do we want almost half of our families to be going hungry? If we care for children today we will have less homelessness in the future. If these children experience less trauma they will also have fewer hurdles to overcome.” Lydia Place is working hard to help create this quality of life to the families they walk alongside.