Safe and Stable Housing Should Be a Fundamental Right

Editor’s Note: There are over 100 organizations in Whatcom County working to provide supportive services to those experiencing chronic poverty and its associated effects: addiction, homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, and unemployment. Whatcom Watch believes these organizations often labor unnoticed by citizens — this column is designed to add daylight to their endeavors. We have contacted the organization appearing in this column and asked them to explain their mission. Because, in challenging times, being inspired and perhaps empowered by the acts of others is more important than ever.

by Sarah Deeder

Over the past 30-plus years, Lydia Place has grown from an eight-bedroom single-family home to a multifaceted service organization, that today supports over 250 families, of all sizes and compositions, each year.

Lydia Place is built on the belief that access to safe and stable housing should be a fundamental right, as it is a critical precursor to overall health, wellbeing, and independence. Further, we recognize that addressing the problem of homelessness at the individual level requires recognition of the complexities of barriers and needs that many families face. Therefore, Lydia Place provides a wide range of programs including behavioral health supports and parenting programs, to support families in finding long-term stability.

One of the ways Lydia Place works to eliminate potential barriers is by providing home-based services. This client-centered approach means meeting clients where they are — in their homes. Clients receive in-home behavioral health services, in-home housing case management, and in-home parenting support in the privacy and comfort of their living spaces. This approach eliminates transportation and childcare barriers, and creates a conducive environment where case managers can build different, and often more authentic, connections with the families they serve.

Although the social distancing required to protect public health during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a halt to in-home visits, Lydia Place is working hard to stay connected to families via video and voice calls, and providing therapy via telehealth platforms.

Establishing connections and support systems is one of the ways families build resiliency and is one of the reasons why Executive Director Emily O’Connor says Lydia Place is working diligently to ensure families are staying connected and feel supported within our community. “Countless households in our community were barely getting by before Covid-19 and are now at serious risk of entering or re-entering homelessness and unable to meet basic food and health needs. Lydia Place is committed to being flexible and responsive to help meet these growing and changing needs in our community. We are incredibly grateful to local foundations and partners who are using their dollars and platforms, such as Whatcom Watch, to help organizations like us respond and be heard.”

O’Connor goes on further to explain the financial impact the pandemic has had on the agency’s ability to engage with the greater community, “We are feeling the economic effects of canceled fundraising events, decreased donations, and an increase in emergency needs from the community. We also miss our collaborative projects with so many local businesses and the countless volunteers who help us keep our three properties maintained and loved. Lydia Place belongs to our community, and our ability to do this work is only made possible by the endless acts of compassion, generosity, and love from those around us.”

In a candid Q and A style interview with Chuckanut Health Foundation, O’Connor describes what is giving her hope, as a leader in her field during this health crisis, “As I watch us come together as a community, a state, a nation, and a global community, I am filled with hope that if we can make such radical changes as we have made due to Covid, that we can carry forward some of these learnings to addressing a long list of other challenges, such as poverty, hunger, and homelessness (just to name a few). While recognizing the devastating loss of life, the global educational setback for our children, and the hard financial hit to individuals and the economy, I am trying hard to notice the small but significant positive byproducts. They are there, and they are worth learning from and drawing hope from.”

Speaking of hope, Lydia Place Community Engagement Director Tally Rabatin says there are many ways the community can safely support the work of Lydia Place and spread hope to the families they serve from a distance:

Become a Housing Hero 
For as little as $5 per month, your contribution helps Lydia Place continue to maintain housing stability, mental health services, and parenting support to hundreds of families who are being severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. On a single day in April, Lydia Place housed eight families with children who were in dire need of shelter. Becoming a Housing Hero today helps us continue to be able to say “Yes” to our neighbors in need of housing and support. A family in crisis is an emergency we cannot turn away from. We are turning to you to help us lean in as this urgency grows. Become a Housing Hero today by visiting

Attend a Virtual Event
We’ve moved our annual Handbags for Housing event online this year. While Covid-19 may keep us physically apart, our love of fashion and philanthropy will unite us on September 17 with a FREE live streaming fashion show featuring local businesses, online handbag auction, gift boxes to purchase, and raffle prizes to win! Register for free by visiting

Stay Informed
Our monthly e-newsletter is full of information regarding current engagement opportunities, events, and advocacy alerts. You can subscribe to our official newsletter by visiting or by texting “LYDIAPLACE” to 22828.

Follow Lydia Place on Social Media
By following or liking Lydia Place on Facebook and Instagram, you can help share real-time news, events, and alerts, as well as help spread awareness about the faces and causes of homelessness in our community.

Donate Items to Donation Partners
Donate new to gently used items to one of our Donation Partners.  Mention Lydia Place during your donation process at the following stores and locations and Lydia Place will receive credit to forward to families in need. Please note: We strongly encourage you to contact each business for their current Covid-19 donation policies and procedures as they do vary from business to business. Thank you!

Furniture, Building Supplies, Appliances, and Household Items
Habitat for Humanity
1825 Cornwall Ave
Bellingham, WA 98225

Children’s and Maternity Items
Flip Kids and Maternity Consignment
1512 Ellis Street  n Bellingham, WA 98225

Little Bugs
2400 Yew Street
Bellingham, WA 98229

Vehicles (Working or not!) 
Donate for Charity
Get a minimum $500 deduction (or higher, depending on what your car sells for), and Lydia Place receives the net proceeds.

Lastly, take care of yourselves!

At Lydia Place, we value wellness and encourage our staff to prioritize self-care practices. Especially during this time of immense stress and difficulty. We know that the best outcomes for our clients and our community are achieved when our team is healthy and thriving. Now is an important time to be aware of how our actions and words can affect others. What we feel inward, projects outward, so be sure to give yourself some compassion, grace, and kindness.

Sarah Jean Deeder is the Public Relations and Graphics Manager at Lydia Place,, and holds a Master of Social Work specializing in families and children and military social work from the University of Southern California. Prior to moving to Whatcom County in 2014, Sarah served in the U.S. Navy and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute.