New Pallet shelter village opens in Burlington, Washington
May 27, 2021
Skagit First Step Center has 38 Pallet shelters that will serve as a low barrier option for people experiencing homelessness.
On a warm sunny afternoon City of Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton eagerly introduced a new temporary housing resource for people experiencing homelessness. It’s called Skagit First Step Center and has 38 Pallet shelters that will serve as a low barrier option to bring people inside. A crowd of about two dozen people toured the site and got a firsthand look at where people will be staying when it opens. Three of the shelters are ADA-accessible.
Friendship House, a nonprofit organization focused on transforming a person's crisis situation into an opportunity for empowerment and self-sufficiency, will provide 24/7 site management at Skagit First Step Center’s shelter village. The goal is to get program participants stabilized then moved into permanent housing. While staying in the Pallet shelters, residents will have access to mental health and substance use support, employment services, medical visits, meals, and transportation. In addition, each shelter has a locking door, electricity, climate control, foldable beds, and more. The site also features a pilot of Pallet’s communal bathrooms and showers.
Skagit First Step Center is located on city-owned property and within driving distance of Pallet’s factory headquarters. In a short time, crews rebuilt a vacant gravel lot into a community. The site is fenced, and each shelter sits on a concrete pad. Officials also renovated an adjoining building on the lot to create office space for staff and a meeting space for residents.
This shelter village is the result of a community effort zeroing in on finding an additional way to address homelessness — an issue that can often seem insurmountable. Skagit County, a few neighboring cities, and private individuals collectively contributed more than $500,000 of funding to the project. The new village joins many other Pallet communities across several states. Our model of combining transitional housing with wraparound services leads to positive outcomes. For example, 41 people who stayed at Riverside Cabin Village Shelter have moved onto permanent housing.
For Tina Tate, Executive Director of Friendship House, the shelter village is another avenue to fulfill their mission.
"It's been about six years that I've had a vision of a low barrier shelter that would serve the most vulnerable, our neighbors living on the streets and give them a place of hope,” she shared. “But Mayor Sexton's vision — this — is better than anything I ever dreamed of. So thank you. Thank you all for being here and having compassion in your hearts and believing that something like this can work.”