BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Homeless advocates in Whatcom County say the problem has gotten so bad, an emergency shelter is needed to start fulfilling all the need.

Lighthouse Mission Ministries has opened a new 80-bed emergency shelter in Bellingham. That is in addition to the 40 beds already in use at the mission which has been full since September said Hans Erchinger-Davis, Executive Director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries.

“We've been full and turning away people for the last four years but I'd say this year (we're seeing) the most significant numbers of people," he said.

The 40 original beds will be used for women only. Men will occupy the 80 new beds in the mission's drop-in center where homeless residents will also have access to services.

According to the 2016 Whatcom County Homeless Census in January, 719 homeless individuals were counted, a number steadily rising since 493 were counted in 2012.

In comparison, the "One Night Count" in King County identified 4,505 homeless residents in January.