A JAM-PACKED VISIT TO SKAGIT VALLEY – Gov. Jay Inslee peeked into one of the Skagit First Step Center’s cabins that provide shelter to those struggling with homelessness March 7. He was accompanied by Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton and Friendship House Executive Director Olivia Hickerson.                                                                                                                                   – Photo by Marissa Conklin
A JAM-PACKED VISIT TO SKAGIT VALLEY – Gov. Jay Inslee peeked into one of the Skagit First Step Center’s cabins that provide shelter to those struggling with homelessness March 7. He was accompanied by Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton and Friendship House Executive Director Olivia Hickerson. – Photo by Marissa Conklin

The expansion of homeless shelter services in Skagit County is on the horizon. 

Gov. Jay Inslee toured Skagit First Step Center March 7 to hear Mayors Steve Sexton and Jill Boudreau’s pitch for increased funding for homeless services in Skagit County. 

Skagit First Step Center opened June 14, 2021 and provides temporary 24/7 shelter and care to those struggling with homelessness. There are 45 individual cabins made by Pallet, a rapid-response shelter construction company based out of Everett, Washington. 

Pallet’s website states that each cabin can be assembled in under an hour and is made with aluminum framing, fiberglass reinforced plastic and foam insulation for the panels and shelves. The company builds these “villages” to accommodate homelessness, and those recovering from disasters. 

Skagit First Step Center is a partnership between Friendship House, the City of Burlington and Skagit County. Friendship House’s website details the center’s on-site services including providing three meals a day, mental health support, medical visits, employment and transportation services. 

Regional press reports state Skagit County is hoping to expand housing by constructing a new four-story apartment building on Pease Road, alongside Skagit First Step Center. Construction costs are estimated to be around $15 million, which Sexton says will come from state and federal funding next year. 

These proposed apartments are necessary for homeless individuals looking to transition into permanent housing. Local news sources report they are only allowed to stay at Skagit First Step Center for 90 days, though most have nowhere to go after that time. The new building will provide an additional 60 beds, space for counseling and treatment, computers and a clinic for basic medical and dental care. 

Burlington is not the only city in Skagit County that will have new apartments for those struggling with homelessness. According to the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, construction of Martha’s Place, a 70-unit permanent housing development on College Way in Mount Vernon, began Nov. 1, 2021. It is projected to open in 2023. 

The county is not only making strides with Inslee to tackle homelessness but are focusing on other areas like flooding and agriculture. In the afternoon Inslee met Mayor Boudreau in downtown Mount Vernon where she showed off the city’s floodwall for protection from the Skagit River. 

The governor then toured Washington State University’s Northwestern Research and Extension Center on Memorial Highway to see how their programs are positively impacting our state’s agricultural health. WSU NWREC has 10 programs, including berry and potato pathology, small fruit horticulture, soil health and hard cider. 

“We help farmers by sculpting agricultural practices,” said Micah Evalt, technical assistant for WSU NWREC, “and when you help the farmers, you help everyone.” 

After his visit Inslee took to Twitter to share his thoughts to over 380,000 of his followers, writing “These folks are building a bright future for WA.”