Submitted by Peoples Bank
Peoples Bank announced that it awarded Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) a $25,000 Peoples Bank Impact Grant to support operation of The Ground Floor, a day center for youth experiencing homelessness. Located in the basement of the First Congregational Church on Cornwall, the 3,445 square foot facility offers support services and supplies to young people ages 13 to 24 in Whatcom County. The grant will be used to make improvements to the space, including the installation of live-feed security cameras to promote safety, visible signage, support items such as nutritious food, camping supplies and backpacks, a community-use television, computer hardware and software, and other supplies that can improve the health and safety of homeless youth.
The Ground Floor opened in January 2019 as Bellingham’s first dedicated space for at-risk, runaway and homeless youth ages 24 and under. The Center connects youth with supportive adults, provides basic needs items such as food, clothing and gear, and offers other resources to help those in need end their experience of homelessness. It serves upwards of 20-35 visitors weekly and is expected to serve up to 400 people annually.
“Northwest Youth Services is thrilled to partner with Peoples Bank to put the finishing touches on The Ground Floor,” said Emilio Vela, Jr., Executive Director of Northwest Youth Services. “The Ground Floor is a space dedicated to youth, many of whom have experienced trauma, to access services and build safe relationships. It has truly become ‘the ground floor’ of our work with young people and is changing the life trajectory for youth in need.”
Whatcom County has very few resources for young people, especially minors, who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. According to the 2018 Whatcom County Annual Report on Homelessness, 69 surveyed individuals identifying as homeless were between the ages of 16 and 24. The actual number of youths in crisis, however, is believed to be much higher. In 2018, NWYS served 1,054 individuals in the same age group experiencing homelessness or housing instability in the county.
“It is important to bring more attention to the young people in need of help in our community,” said Lisa Hefter, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Peoples Bank. “Every night in Washington state an estimated 22,000 people live on the streets or in shelters or transitional living. It is heartbreaking that many of these people are children and young adults. We are proud to award Northwest Youth Services this year’s Peoples Bank Impact Grant and be a part of the solution to help those in need.”
The Peoples Impact Grant program was launched in 2017 to help fund a specific project, use or identified purpose that will have a long-lasting, positive impact on the community. Previous recipients include Skagit Habitat for Humanity and Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County.
In addition to the Impact Grant, Peoples Bank donates hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to local and regional non-profit organizations providing valuable services in the arts, child and family services, education, health and social services, and civics. The Bank also allows employees to use work hours to volunteer in the community and encourages members of the community to help others through campaigns like “Pay it Forward Pigs” and “Socktober.” For more information about Peoples Bank community giving, please visit peoplesbank-wa.com/about-us/community-giving.
About Peoples Bank
Peoples Bank is a locally owned and operated, independent full-service community bank with $1.8 billion in assets. Headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, the Bank was founded in 1921 and operates 23 branches located throughout Washington. In its most recent rating, BauerFinancial, a leading independent bank rating firm, awarded Peoples Bank its highest five-star superior rating. This rating recognizes Peoples Bank’s strong financial management practices, dedicated employees and long-standing customer relationships. Learn more about Peoples Bank at https://www.peoplesbank-wa.com/.
About Northwest Youth Services
Established in 1976, Northwest Youth Services is a non-profit organization serving young people ages 13-24 experiencing homelessness in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. It offers housing, street outreach, help finding a job or enrolling in school, connection to mental health services, support for LGBTQ youth, restorative justice for juvenile offenders, and referrals to other services in the community. For more information, please visit https://www.nwys.org/.