Homeless housing site will provide stability,
Case managers, medics will be on-site
Michael Whitney photo
Sarah Jayne Barrett, the housing director for Catholic Community Services, gives U.S.
Rep. Rick Larsen a tour of the future supportive homeless housing apartment complex in central Everett. There will be medical and other assistance on-site, and 24/7 security.
EVERETT — An apartment building specifically to get chronically homeless people off the streets now has its bones, and it will house about 70 people by this time next year.
The four-story, 65-unit building tucked behind the corner of Evergreen Way and Pecks Drive is definitely growing. Right now, it’s just a wooden frame with dirt floors.
Catholic Housing Services owns and will manage the site with 24/7 security, and sibling agency Catholic Community Services will provide case workers. The city donated the land because it wanted to see permanent, supportive housing built.
Who will live here are the most chronically homeless segment of Snohomish County’s population, people who have endured homelessness for 12 or more months. Who gets a room is decided by a calculated list of people already in the county’s social system who most frequently end up in jail, in shelters and in emergency rooms.
Rising to the top of the housing list will be people defined as “tri-morbid”: living with a chronic health condition, a negative mental health diagnosis and substance addiction all at once. Of the 350 homeless adults interviewed in the county’s Point in Time Count snapshot this January, volunteers found 42 people in this “tri-morbid” category.
The people who move in will become tenants on housing vouchers who can lose their lease if they break house rules. Using drugs inside could mean an automatic eviction.
The project applies the Housing First model to addressing homelessness. The model puts a roof over people’s heads before trying to fix the other complications in their lives. The housing is also a hub for services, said Chris Jowell, a director at Catholic Housing Services.
It is permanent housing: There is no requirement to leave, and no requirement to get clean. That is voluntary.
“A lot of people are able to live and die with dignity with our (nonprofit’s) housing,” said Catholic Community Services’ housing director Sarah Jayne Barrett.
The supportive housing site will likely have an 80 to 90 percent retention rate, Barrett said.
The housing site at 6107 Berkshire Drive will have 10 one-bedroom apartments and 55 studios; the studio apartments are each sized at 540 square feet.
Catholic Community Services hopes to have residents move in July 1, 2019.
Five units are reserved for veterans, using veteran’s VASH vouchers passed through by the Everett Housing Authority, and 10 units for young adults ages 18-24.
There will be a medical room inside, and counselors will visit to build trust with people who need services.
Each apartment unit will have its own kitchen and a shower or bathtub in the bathrom. There also will be a common community room.
Sex offenders and people with criminal records for arson or for manufacturing drugs will not be eligible to live in the building.
The units each have large windows. People can have visitors, but the visitors need to be checked out by the on-site security guards and be buzzed in to enter the building.
Barrett and others in social services say that taking the most chronically homeless and vulnerable people off the street frees up resources for people lower on social workers’ priority lists.
The model is called “low barrier” housing because it puts housing as the first step.
Many homeless people with substance addictions are turned away from social assistance housing because they would required to be sober. The addiction is a barrier to a roof over their head.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen toured the property Aug. 28 with reporters present. He visited as part of his focus on affordable housing issues.
Larsen came to see the project, and assess needs. He was in town before Congress reconvenes this week.
Federal dollars dictate how many housing vouchers are spread around, and federal community block grants contribute toward building affordable housing.
This one building won’t house the whole of Snohomish County’s vulnerable population. That’s a conundrum, Jowell called it.
Once this site fills up, nobody that was asked about it had an easy answer on how to house additionally
vulnerable homeless people.
When the site was selected, middle-class neighbors along Berkshire Drive wailed against housing homeless people so close by. Their largest fear is that drug users roaming the streets will gather nearby.
Catholic Community Services characterizes the people living here as wanting to mind their own business. Barrett said many “are tired, sick and just want to shut the door” away from their past life on the streets.
A similar site in Bellingham faced apprehension until after it opened, Barrett said.
Battling perception may still be an uphill battle.
A construction materials delivery guy at the worksite practically shook his head when told that the building would house drug users from the streets. Why is this population being catered to, he said. Up until recently, police would arrest the drug addicts or people would simply quit drugs and pick up their lives on their own.
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