Whatcom County Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) Program

PLEASE NOTE: All of the information on this page is pertaining to the Whatcom County HEN program. To find contact information for HEN programs in other counties click the following link: http://www.commerce.wa.gov/Services/individualassistance/Homeless-and-Prevention-Assistance/Pages/default.aspx

Click the following links to be directed to the information within this page:
Essential Needs
Rent Assistance
Contact Us

Program Eligibility and Enrollment

The Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program is a state-funded program through the Washington Department of Social and Health services (DSHS) for people who are presently unable to work due to a temporary disability. DSHS determines eligibility for all HEN recipients.

Apply for DSHS Cash Assistance:
Please contact the DSHS office or visit www.washingtonconnection.org to apply for cash assistance to see if you are HEN eligible.

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Bellingham Community Services Office
4101 Meridian St
Bellingham, WA 98226
DSHS Customer Service: 1 (877) 501-2233

Essential Needs Bank

Everyone who is approved for HEN assistance can receive a bag of “Essential Needs” items by request one time each month. These are items that you cannot purchase with your EBT card like toiletries, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, laundry vouchers, bus tokens, etc.

Picking up Essential Needs:
Tell the receptionist that you are a HEN client and they will help you get your items to take home with you that day. Please allow up to 30 minutes for staff to process your request.

Opportunity Council
1111 Cornwall Ave
Bellingham, WA 98225
Monday through Friday, 8:00 – 5:00 PM

The HEN program can also help with gas cards (upon request on a monthly first come, first serve basis) to help with transportation get to and from medical/mental health appointments. If you are in need of a gas card please call (360) 255-2091 ext. 142 at the beginning of the month to request one.

Rent Assistance

Due to budget constraints and the amount of people needing help, the HEN program is only able to provide housing assistance to those in the greatest need. When someone is approved for the HEN program through DSHS and contacts HEN staff, screenings will need to be completed to determine if you are eligible for HEN housing assistance.

Am I eligible for rent assistance through HEN?

At this time the HEN program is only able to provide housing assistance for people that are;

1) Imminently losing housing**
With a 3 Day Pay or Vacate Notice (OR) Eviction Notice from the landlord (AND) a current lease agreement.
**There is additional screening for this assistance. Please contact HEN staff to see if you are eligible.

2) Literally homeless
Staying in a place not meant for habitation (outside, in a tent, vehicle, etc.)
Staying in a short term emergency shelter (The Lighthouse Mission, Agape Home, or a motel paid for by another program/church, etc.)

What types of housing can HEN rent assistance pay for?

Studio/1 bedroom apartment: Up to $625.00/month
Room for rent/shared living: Up to $500.00/month (portion of rent based on number of adults in the home)
Mobile homes/RV’s (if located at a designated mobile home/RV park with utility hookups)

MUST BE: Month-to-month or six month lease with legal property owner or property manager

What is needed to set up HEN rent assistance payments?

The following documents are needed to set up on-going rental payments on behalf of HEN recipients:

W-9 Tax Form (click to view/print)
This is required for all private/individual housing providers so that we may send you the appropriate documents for your own records and tax filing. For questions regarding how this may affect your taxes or government assistance, please contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

Lease/Rental Agreement (containing the minimum information):
Name of tenant
Name of housing provider (must be legal property owner)
Address of rental property
Occupancy (who gets to live at the rental)
Term of agreement (lease start and end date – must be month-to-month or 6 month agreement)
Monthly rent rate and due date
Deposit costs (what for/term)
Signature of tenant/date
Signature of housing provider/date

HEN Rent Assistance Agreement Form (contact HEN staff for copy)
This form is signed by both the tenant/HEN client and housing provider to outline what the Opportunity Council will be paying on behalf of the tenant. Housing providers can indicate to whom checks should be made payable to and where payments should be mailed.

Landlord Habitability Standards Certifcation Form (click to view/print)
Housing providers sign to indicate the rental property is safe and habitable according to Landlord Tenant Act (RCW 59.18.060).

Bellingham Rental Registration Program

As of July 2015, all rental properties in Bellingham are required to be registered with the city by the property owner every year, with an inspection once every three years. This program was created to ensure that rental housing provides a safe and habitable place for tenants to live. The cost for a housing provider to register a unit ranges from $8 – $10, depending on how many units a property contains. Failure to register a rental property may result in fines and/or penalties with the City of Bellingham, so we recommend all housing providers comply with registration. Please note that you do not need to register a room for rent if you are the property owner and live at the property.

We provide this information to you as a partner in our community’s housing market. Please direct questions regarding rental registration to the Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program:

City of Bellingham Permit Center
210 Lottie St
Bellingham, WA 982225
(360) 778-8361

For more information, please visit www.cob.org/rentals

Utility Assistance

The HEN program can pay up to $75 per utility per month toward the following utility accounts for client’s eligible for rent assistance**:

Natural Gas

HEN staff sets up a monthly flat rate contribution based on the average monthly usage for utility account. Current billing statements will be needed and along with a completed HEN Utility Assistance Agreement form signed by you and the account holder (if the account holder is someone other than yourself).

**If you are currently receiving another type of housing assistance and need help with utilities to maintain your current housing (i.e. Section 8 voucher, BHA subsidized housing) HEN may be able to help with these costs. Please contact HEN staff to see if you are eligible for this assistance.

Contact Us

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Bellingham Community Services Office
4101 Meridian St
Bellingham, WA 98226
DSHS Customer Service: 1 (877) 501-2233
Walk in hours (no appointment needed): Tuesday / Thursday, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Opportunity Council / Whatcom Homeless Service Center
1111 Cornwall Ave, Suite A
Bellingham, WA 98225
Walk in hours (no appointment needed): Monday / Wednesday / Friday, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Appointments outside of these times available upon request at the Opportunity Council office. Please contact HEN staff to schedule:

Mikel Johnson
HEN Housing Assistance Specialist
Phone: (360) 255-2091 ext. 137

Kate Stragis
HEN Housing Assistance Specialist
Phone: (360) 255-2091 ext. 142