Delridge homeless-housing proposal: Neighborhood advocates tour two DESC buildings

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Downtown Emergency Service Center‘s proposal for a 75-unit Delridge building to house mentally ill homeless people is still in an early stage, though three months have elapsed since it first came to light.

It’s not a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Far from it. Delridge neighborhood advocates are planning a town-hall-style meeting for next month, with more discussion of and information about the 5444 Delridge Way project, and this past weekend, a small group toured DESC’s two newest buildings to try to get more of a feeling for what might be headed their way.

They have Department of Neighborhoods assistance in trying to bring the community more information about the proposed project, as part of a small matching-funds grant, and so district coordinators Yun Pitre and Steve Louie were along for the tour, in a city van that set out for a three-hour tour that turned into four on Saturday.

Stop 1: Rainier House in Columbia City (5270 Rainier Avenue South).

Like most of DESC’s buildings, this one has studio apartments, each assigned to one resident. 50 people live here. Each unit – we were shown one that’s currently vacant – has a kitchenette and bathroom. The lobby has a front-desk area with a staff area behind a window; while key-card access is required for coming and going, there is no further check-in/sign-in for residents. Visitors, yes (and they have to show and leave ID); residents, no. DESC says that by the time this project was built – their 7th – they had developed a “template,” so its basic characteristics are similar to what will be found in their subsequent projects.

Much of the time here was spent in an extensive Q/A session with DESC’s executive director Bill Hobson, director of administrative services Nicole Macri, and director of housing Daniel Malone, talking about Rainier House’s origins, and potential comparisons with the Delridge proposal.

According to Hobson, Rainier House’s site was previously “a vacant lot” alongside a ravine, with soil issues because of extensive presence of fill from a long-ago regrade of busy Rainier Avenue, on which it fronts. The building has underground parking, which is not in the plan for Delridge, but was required for Rainier House by city code at the time it was built. DESC says most of its residents not only don’t have cars, they never learned to drive. Most of their residents, Hobson said, have disorders with late-adolescence/early-adulthood onset: “Sixty percent of (them) experience their first psychotic episode between ages 17 and 22.” (The average age of residents in all the agency’s buidings, he said, is late 40s, though the average age in Rainier House is early 50s.)

For the Delridge project (its official online city files are here), they expect to meet city parking requirements via surface-level parking “off the alley” behind the building, which they also expect to have to improve (at least near their building, not necessarily its entire long-block stretch).

At the first tumultuous meeting with concerned Delridge residents, Hobson said they would consider including a commercial space on the ground floor of the building, and that now seems to be a concrete part of the plan. He mentioned 2,500 feet, which is more than double the commercial space in Rainier House, fronting Rainier.

“We weren’t required to put commercial space here,” Hobson noted, saying “neighborhood stakeholders” wanted it, and it “made sense to me.” Now, the Rainier Chamber of Commerce is headquartered there. The building also has a 40-person meeting room that DESC offers to “any community group that wants to use it,” Hobson says, explaining that the area had a shortage of that sort of space. Delridge, he said, won’t have a comparable space, as it does not appear to be short on meeting rooms.

The community collaboration also extends to groups lending a helping hand to Rainier House residents. During the visit, lunchtime was announced, for those who wanted to come eat in the cafeteria; volunteers from nearby Damascus Baptist Church prepared and served it, as they do on the second Saturday of each month. (Hobson had told the tour participants that the church had originally been opposed to the DESC project, though one volunteer questioned about that by a Delridge visitor said she didn’t know anything about it.)

Pressed for more information about who lives in their projects, the DESC executives said there is a higher percentage of women than in the general homeless population – while 15 percent of homeless people are female, the DESC-resident percentage is closer to 35 percent. That, Malone explained, is because “occupancy is predicated on vulnerability, and women tend to score higher.”

Regarding turnover, and why residents leave: 35 of the 50 current Rainier House residents have been there since it opened two and a half years ago. Agency-wide, Malone said, some who leave go to even-more-independent housing situations; some go to “higher levels of care, like nursing homes,” either because of advanced aging or “pretty severe problems/behaviors”; and some “return to homelessness.” They might not be “comfortable in the environment we have in the building,” Malone explained, or they might go back to the streets after “a problem event” – perhaps a clash with a neighbor that led DESC to ask them to move out. Formal evictions, according to DESC, are rare.

But the overall goal, Hobson made clear, is for residents to be there for the long term. “We actually kind of like that … Our message is, this is your home as long as you want it.”

So who pays for it? DESC says a resident pays one-third of her/his income for rent; when they come into the system, social workers help them get signed up for Social Security and Medicaid, since most are eligible because of disability (most of the Delridge residents, for example, will be people living with “major mental disorders”). The typical benefit, it was explained, is less than $700 a month, so they pay about $200 in rent. Government subsidies – Section 8 in some cases – covers the rest.

And yes, some spend money on alcohol, it was acknowledged. Drinking is not prohibited in DESC facilities (the agency even has one facility specifically for alcoholics, 1811 Eastlake). And some residents use street drugs, though they are not officially allowed. “I don’t want to pretend it doesn’t exist,” Malone acknowledged. “It’s a problem that many of the folks we serve have … so we take an eyes-open approach.” There are no inspections or searches. Crack and marijuana are the most commonly used illegal drugs – the former “is king among homeless people,” according to Malone.

Cigarette smoking is allowed in apartments, though Malone says health authorities are putting on “a lot of pressure” to get that changed. Hobson noted that a much-higher percentage of the homeless population smokes than the general population, and says DESC worries that going “smoke-free” would constitute a “barrier” for people to be helped by the program.

The substance-abuse discussion took a more point-blank turn at that juncture. What happens if a resident emerges from an elevator “stumbling drunk” and headed for the street? Hobson was asked.

Staffers are not empowered to outright stop someone from leaving in that condition, came to the reply, but they certainly would try to step in, maybe saying, “Hey, Joe, you’re not looking so good, why don’t you sit here with me for a while?”

If the resident heads out anyway, they might be followed by a staff member who would try again to intervene. Their leases do have some clauses about asking residents not to loiter and not to engage in drug/alcohol behaviors in the neighborhood. (Here’s the “Good Neighbor Policy” for Rainier House residents.)

(During our tour, we didn’t see any loitering outside the buildings we visited, which included a third impromptu stop outside the Kerner-Scott House, which is barely a block north of the second stop, the Canaday House. Then again, it was sunny and fairly hot, not too comfortable for just hanging around. The patio at Rainier House and the courtyard at Canaday both had people hanging out and socializing.)

The visitation policy is where the hammer really comes down, it was explained, since, DESC says, it’s the visitors who cause the “majority of unpleasant events,” not the residents. When someone visits, they have to contact staff, which in turn contacts the resident, who then comes to let the person in. The visitor – limited to two at a time per resident (and up to three overnight visitors per week) – has to turn over ID. “It’s fairly restrictive,” Malone said, while adding that they want to encourage residents to socialize, and many have “no visitors, ever.”

Visitors who cause trouble go on a “bar” list (we saw this on a whiteboard inside the staff area next to the Canaday House lobby).

Besides the staffers at the front desk, each facility has clinical support staffers who develop “residential service plans” for those assigned to them – a caseload of about 20 per staffer, DESC says. It deals not only with specific services and needs, but “identifies the problems and challenges the person has, their strengths and ambitions, divided into certain life domains.”

The services provided through the building go beyond the apartment itself. When they move in, we learn, bedding is provided, as is flatware. There are vans available to take residents to stores (none are close by). As was the case with the visiting church volunteers, some meals are served, and that’s included in the rent, for residents interested in participating – some are brought in by organizations such as FareStart (Hobson thinks DESC is its biggest client).

In all, Hobson says DESC has “more than 80 collaborative relationships with other human-service organizations” – and “perhaps our most profound relationship” is with the Seattle Police Department.

“Do you go into neighborhoods and look to learn what’s already there” in terms of potential collaborators? asked tour participant Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council.

Answer: Yes. An example was offered – neighborhood fly-fishing aficionados teaching residents in one DESC facility downtown.

But the caveat was also offered that DESC can’t be expected to come in and address neighborhood needs: “We are not an economic development organization,” Hobson stressed. “But at the absolute minimum, we don’t want to be a brake on economic development.”

Toward that end, he reiterates, multiple times, that while they currently are envisioning a commercial space of about 2,500 feet in the Delridge building, there is one huge concern: They do not want it to be vacant. They want to “hear the neighborhood consensus about what should go in there; we would be able to offer it at a very modest rental price.”

And they stress that the Delridge plan has gone no further than what was shown at the over-capacity community meeting in June – “a massing that conforms to the zoning for the lot. … Right now, our development proposal is pretty soft, because we still have applications out (for funding).” They hope to hear in late October/early November whether they’ll get the grant(s) for which they have applied.

Stop #2: Canaday House (424 Minor Avenue)

This building is in the ever-densifying Cascade neighborhood, adjacent to a complex for seniors, across the alley from an upscale 200-or-so-apartment development. To put it flatly, nothing about it says “the (formerly) homeless people live here.” The building has 83 units; according to the DESC website, more than a fourth are set aside for veterans. It’s taller (by two stories) than the proposed Delridge development.

Its lobby includes huge open areas, one cozy corner with computers for residents to use – this service is in a separate room off the Rainier House lobby – and a giant café space, with a TV lounge in turn accessible from one side. DESC staff says one lesson they learned is that they don’t need this much space in the café.

No Q/A session here, since the one at Rainier House lasted so long, but questions are fielded along the way. We visit a vacant unit; its features are similar to Rainier House, with a couple of added safeguards – overflow drains in the kitchen sink and on the bathroom floor. Both Canaday and Rainier have a standard-issue feature protecting against possible kitchen fires – a timer that activates power to the stove and other kitchen appliances.

The unit here, too, like Rainier House, has big windows, letting in plenty of ambient light. Each floor, it is pointed out, has a coin laundry room (Hobson says a good deal with a vendor enables them to charge only 50 cents for a wash and 50 cents for drying). Chutes on each floor take trash down to a central collection spot. Garage parking here – again, more for staff/visitors than for residents – is accessible off the alley, though a grade change means that’s off the second floor here, not the ground floor.

While we’re visiting the vacant unit, loud barking is heard in the hallway, and somebody shouting, apparently related to the barking. DESC staffers say only service animals are allowed.

A garden courtyard off the main entrance is one of the more striking features here; there is also an outside garden at Kerner-Scott House, a quick walk down the block. A bulletin board in a corner of the café announces a new walking group led by an in-house nurse, and a poker night; it also warns that Quiet Hours are 10 pm-7 am. Two of us also notice a bowl of condoms on the front desk.

Elsewhere in the lobby, there’s art on the wall; a tour participant asks about the possibility of art in or around the Delridge facility, and that is noted by DESC as a potential community interest.

After almost four hours, the tour concludes when the Delridge delegation runs out of questions, for now (as we did too); this is just one part of their fact-finding process as they prepare for the aforementioned “town hall” meeting (no date set yet, but it’s expected to be in October). Those who were on the tour also indicated that they’ll be writing up their own reports on the tour, and hoping to make the information available during the Delridge Day festival this Saturday (11 am-3 pm, Delridge Community Center, along with grand-opening festivities for the adjacent skatepark).

ADDED 9:09 PM: We finished this story just before heading off to cover tonight’s North Delridge Neighborhood Council meeting, where a brief discussion of the tour was part of the agenda. Patrick Baer, who is spearheading the plan for the October “town hall” and two subsequent meetings, organized a committee to put those meetings together, with the help of a $1,000 city grant to cover rentals at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center as well as outreach and translation for the meeting and pre-publicity. They will be moderated/facilitated meetings, he said, to keep a “respectful” tone, unlike the at-times-testy forum at Delridge Library back in June.

He says the date for the first meeting will be set before Delridge Day on Saturday, where ample information will be available from NDNC (and DESC will have a booth too, with agency reps ready to answer questions).

66 Replies to "Delridge homeless-housing proposal: Neighborhood advocates tour two DESC buildings"

  • ketchup September 12, 2011 (7:53 pm)

    This will add to the nightmare which it already is – the lovely thug infested 120 bus ride. I thought about moving just up the hill to Avalon so I can ride a decent bus into downtown. That area of Delridge couldn’t get any worse anyway. I hate going past that library when the g’s are sitting smoking dope at the bus stop, I hate when they look at me like I’m on their turf when I say “excuse me” to get by. I love it when the red headed sprinter tears past me and my toddler swearing and ready to kick someone’s arse. So okay I’ll just stop b*tching and move, AGAIN, to somewhere I can’t possibly afford just to get away from the thuggies and now the druggies. Cheers Delridge.

  • 4thGenWestSide September 12, 2011 (8:22 pm)

    …”And some residents use street drugs, though they are not officially allowed”.

    What else is “unofficially” allowed? Poor Delridge. You had so much potential. You were heading towards greatness. You have been screwed.


  • MP September 12, 2011 (8:48 pm)

    Take them over to the East side!

  • JB September 12, 2011 (8:49 pm)

    I was open minded about this project. Now I’ve heard enough. There is no way in hell I am supporting an organization that enables drug use and chronic inebriation under the guise of helping the homeless and mentally ill.

  • Denise September 12, 2011 (8:53 pm)

    …and my favorite sentence..

    DESC worries that going “smoke-free” would constitute a “barrier” for people to be helped by the program.

    God forbid!!

  • JimmyG September 12, 2011 (9:16 pm)

    Delridge, don’t buy DESC’s line of BS.

    THey didn’t take you to The Morrison, or The Union Hotel, both properties of the DESC.

    I invite anyone who wants to see the clientele that DESC will bring to your neighborhood to go sit near the Morrison or the Union. It’s a whole different world from the sanitized version they’re peddling in this tour they gave today.
    The residents sell and/or score their crack right there, panhandle, fall down drunk, harass passersby, it goes on and on…

  • nick September 12, 2011 (9:18 pm)

    crime is on the rise in our area so lets add this great idea and it will provide a great customer base for the gangs to sell hard drugs to. put this place in ballard.

  • kzb September 12, 2011 (9:48 pm)

    Why can’t a building/low-income housing program like this be used for sober people with families who need an opportunity to get their lives together? or for college students who need assistance while they finish school? Delridge is not a good place for those trying to overcome drug/alcohol addictions! In spite of what many presume about “this side” of West Seattle, there are lots of good, young families who have bought/fixed up modest homes and are trying to build a strong community for their children.

  • foy boy September 12, 2011 (9:57 pm)

    We seem to put fire and police on a voter aprove levi. Why not put this on a voter aprove levi? Why are the utmost impostant services on a levi and all the feel good BS not? Granted people are not selfess but pay for what is important like fire hydrants that work frist and if there is money left over infest in schools and if theres more money left over envest in police and if there is money left over fix the roads and then if there is money left over, well you know what I mean.

  • Jasperblu September 12, 2011 (10:08 pm)

    What a terrible idea this is for Delridge & the families that are trying to build happy & healthy lives in that community. No, no, no.

  • foy boy September 12, 2011 (10:11 pm)

    You know what life is tough for every one. But I’ll be damed if our tax dollars are going to pay some self inflicked drug users roof, There are so many more well deserving projects that need funding. The city keeps telling west seattle that theres no money for a park and ride, but they have money for a bunch of drunks and drug users. Did you know that the one the city built in the sodo has at least one or more 911 calls per day. At a cost of 20 mill this was a wast of money. And now they want to put one in west seattle, well just great. unless you let people sink they will never learn to swim.

  • Delridge resident September 12, 2011 (10:25 pm)

    So – how do we stop it??

    I’m with all of the above comments. I don’t think Delridge is the right place for this facility. I’ve lived here 4 years and specifically bought here because I saw a neighborhood trying to improve itself. This isn’t a case of “NIMBY”. But there’s nothing here – no grocery store, no bank, no pharmacy, and no east-west public transport. There’s one bus line! The Longfellow Creek area is sketchy enough – so how about we bring in a bunch of known drug-users and alcoholics and give them a great place to conduct their illicit activity!

    I truly believe that this project will take Delridge out at its knees, just as it’s getting it’s feet underneath it.

  • Paul September 13, 2011 (12:19 am)

    You wanna here crazy? I went to DSHS a couple years ago when I had lost my job due to an injury ( off the job ).. They could not help me with any funds for living or medical bills And the worker point blank said If I had a drug problem I could get four to five Hundred a month… our system enables Drug abusers and drunks

  • TMQ September 13, 2011 (12:39 am)

    I agree with Delridge Resident’s comments about lack of commercial and healthcare resources to support the DESC residents. We need to ask specific questions at future meetings: why a location with virtually no access to Harborview, Sound Mental Health, groceries, or Evergreen and THS methadone treatment centers. Also, we should ask regarding rental to sex offenders given proximity to the creek and Camp Long just up Brandon. Without knowing more, it seems like the most important and perhaps only criterion was inexepensive real estate. DESC’s strategic vision for this project seems myopic.

    • WSB September 13, 2011 (12:56 am)

      TMQ – the sex offenders question came up during that first public meeting back in June, in the paragraph above the second video clip of Bill Hobson speaking.
      From the story: “Will you have sex offenders living there? one person asked. Hobson committed to barring that “if it’s what (the neighborhood wants).” But as other suggestions piled up, implying that the tenants might be a danger to those living nearby, he began to bristle, asking for the opportunity to clear up myths about the mentally ill.”

  • Advocate September 13, 2011 (1:28 am)

    And where do you miserable people with the above comments propose that those with mental illness live? On the streets? Are you going to tell me that people who are fortunate enough to be neither mentally ill nor homeless don’t use street drugs? I say well-planned, inclusive housing will be good for Delridge or any other neighborhood, and I hope you people have the occasion to run into the residents and find perhaps you have a heart after all.

  • Delridge resident 2 September 13, 2011 (5:22 am)

    I agree with almost everyone else’s sentiment above. This is absolutely CRAZY! They (meaning whoever the morons are who voted to allow this) can’t bring in a grocery store but they can bring in a wharehouse for addicts (because in reality we all know that the majority of homeless individuals are dealing with some sort of intense addictions)? No one I have spoken to supports this in my neighborhood, how can we stop this? Who’s ear do we need to speak to? I also find it very interesting that all of these sites are in socio-economically depressed areas with large multi-racial neighborhoods. How about they move this to Ballard, Queen Anne, or Magnolia? Oh yeah, I forgot, those are all predominantly white, wealthy neighborhoods who make a stink when things like this are proposed. I have 3 kids and live very close to this site and am absolutely not ok with this. WSB- any help on who we can contact directly to start the conversation? I know they keep saying this is set in stone- but when the Seattle Times catches wind of the not-so hidden racial/social bias in this development- perhaps things will change. If not- my family is outta here. I love all people, and understand that everyone needs a place to call home. But if we’re going to build these projects in the midst of a raging recession- let’s at least have some equality in where they are planted.

    • WSB September 13, 2011 (7:40 am)

      DR2 – regarding “start the conversation,” North Delridge Neighborhood Council has been already engaged in “conversation” about this, as we’ve reported here, since first word of the proposal emerged at its June meeting (story linked in this one). If you want to talk to them in person, they’ll be boothing at Delridge Day this Saturday, 11-3, as will DESC. – Tracy

  • mookie September 13, 2011 (5:24 am)

    @Advocate – you blithely say “well-planned” and just how is this particular situation well-planned? Why are you glossing over the points that this location has:
    “No access to Harborview, Sound Mental Health, groceries, or Evergreen and THS methadone treatment centers. No bank, no pharmacy, and no east-west public transport. ONE bus line.”
    In your haste to call those posting “miserable people”? Don’t you think these mentally ill and homeless people deserve those items?! Don’t you think those basic support issues are important?
    Inclusive housing = good. Lack of strategic planning to truly support residents with mental illnesses and substance addictions other than a (heavily subsidized) roof over their head and no requirements that they stay on meds, don’t shoot up, don’t get drunk on the premises or in the nearby streets = $&^$&%@!-up and everyone else seems to understand that.

  • GBH September 13, 2011 (6:38 am)

    Just what Delridge needs, more drunks and crazy people. Why don’t they put it in the Admiral area?…….they wouldn’t dare!

  • ketchup September 13, 2011 (6:38 am)

    Gee Advocate, why don’t you set up shop for these poor old homeless drug users/sex offenders next door to your house and see how your attitude changes. I’m already fed up with the gang activities now we have to deal with this? There are many other places for this development where there are more services available, Delridge isn’t one of them. That’s one of the main arguments here.

  • Perry September 13, 2011 (6:49 am)

    I agree with advocate. Because of the huge discrimination and prejudice against people who have mental illnesses, nobody wants to have housing for them in their neighborhood. Few will acknowledge that there are already completely unsupervised people who have mental illnesses in every neighborhood including Delridge, and a facility like this offers better supervision and quick reactions to trouble than any landlord could. Few understand that about 10% of the population abuse or are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and that both are being widely abused in private and rental homes throughout the Delridge area as we speak. This is really a fundamental issue of civil rights, and more people need to come forward to say that people who have mental illnesses deserve access to decent affordable housing in every neighborhood. We as a civil society can’t allow this sort of discrimination and prejudice against our fellow citizens to continue.

  • MP September 13, 2011 (7:17 am)

    I assume advocate doesn’t live anywhere around that area.

  • godofthebasement September 13, 2011 (7:43 am)

    I second Advocate’s comment. The heartlessness expressed by everyone in this forum is appalling.

    Fact check for Foy Boy: It was a levy and we did vote for it. This type of housing was specified in the 2000 housing levy:

  • Neighbor September 13, 2011 (8:05 am)

    Before ya all start moving up to Avalon to avoid this nightmare here’s alittle tidbit. There already is a unit on Avalon. It’s been great…. we’ve seen men simulating jerking off for hours on corners, men walking straight into our yards, very threatening behavior coming from multiple individuals, the list goes on and on.
    And for those of you bitching about having it in Admiral, the residents of the Avalon facility frequent the NE neighborhoods all the time. I especially like the guy who is really out of his mind walking around while all the kids are out playing….Fight this tooth and nail Delridge!

  • ketchup September 13, 2011 (8:07 am)

    Whatever Perry. I choose to live drug free and I pay my own rent/bills therefor I think I have every right to discriminate against those who are given free housing to continue their drug habitat. Unbelievable. I’m willing to bet you don’t live around here either.

  • Delridge resident September 13, 2011 (8:39 am)

    I wonder if “Advocate” and “Perry” are DESC employees or are otherwise associated with the organization. Not accusing, just wondering.

    @Perry – I whole heartedly agree with you. People with mental illnesses do deserve access to decent and affordable housing. That’s not the argument. My argument is that the neighborhoods in which they live need to be able to meet their special needs; none of which Delridge meets.

  • DelridgeV September 13, 2011 (9:02 am)

    As one of the newer neighborhood residents who bought a modest home on a quiet street one block from delridge, who also works across from a DESC facility downtown, I had to do a fair amount of soul searching after my initial very negative reaction to this proposal. I concluded that, one, it is unfair of me to assign negative judgments on people because of my own preconceived and uninformed stereotypes, two, that i want to live in a loving community that welcomes and supports people from all walks of life, three, that Dobson, DESC’s director is a serious person who is doing the good work for people eho desperately need him, four, that I have room in my heart to care about and feel responsible for those less fortunate than myself, and, finally, that I am responsible for the safety of my neighborhood. Therefore, I decided to keep an open mind about the proposal as discussion progressed, while also making sure that the safety of neighborhood residents, especially children, is not compromised–which requires not alienating, but dialoguing with DESC.

  • Perry September 13, 2011 (9:07 am)

    There’s always suspicion about why people who try to educate the often ignorant general public about how many unlabeled people who have the same mental illnesses as the folks who live in DESC housing are already in each of our neighborhoods. So, to set the record straight: I have and have never had an affiliation with DESC. I live one mile away from Delridge, easy for people who will live in this building to walk to. I have a number of housing programs for the same population as this project would serve within a similar short walk. Folks, the bottom line is that the non-profits who are having a terrible time raising money in this era of tight money to build these sorts of programs go wherever there’s an affordable site that’s big enough to build the sort of housing they create. Yes, it should be “somewhere
    else” where there are easily available goods and services, but don’t we all want to (and don’t have the money to) live in those neighborhoods, but can’t afford to? The opinions articulated in this e-mail dialog always surface in every neighborhood, no matter how rich or poor, and always boil down to the same reaction: not in my neighborhood because I don’t want “those types of people” living here. This country is based on principles of the equal rights to housing and employment for all, and this is the next group for whom we need to confront our prejudice toward in order to move ahead.

  • JoAnne September 13, 2011 (9:25 am)

    I am not intimidated by someone calling me “heartless” just because I don’t support their agenda. It’s a tactic.

    I have a dear friend who is seriously mentally ill. He needs housing desperately, but he is not a drug addict. He is aware of the Seattle program but TERRIFIED by the people who live in these buildings!

    There is no way he could survive in a place like that. He already has trouble with paranoia, and in a place like this he would be miserable and constantly in fear for his life, and he KNOWS this!

    Drug addiction is NOT like cancer or schizophrenia. My friend cannot wake up every morning with a choice of whether to continue his illness! He tries to work and go to school the best he can, but there are some aspects of his illness that are very difficult to overcome.

    He is truly needy and deserving, but his needs are ignored while expansive services are provided to criminals and malingerers.

    Who is heartless???

  • godofthebasement September 13, 2011 (10:21 am)

    Typo in my previous comment: It was the 2009 Housing Levy.

  • jonah September 13, 2011 (10:49 am)

    I see a lot of mistruths about the mentally ill and this project. Anyone who disagrees is accused of being a DESC spy. Can we have some civility? If not, we are already becoming the terrible place we claim Delridge will become when DESC arrives. Do we hate poor and mentally ill people that much? I would guess most of us live in Delridge for the same reason DESC wants to come here – it’s affordable. If you can afford to live in the vaulted Admiral district, why aren’t you there? Please, if you are so sure that this will destroy our neighborhood, go on the tour and confirm your facts before you speak them as truths. Otherwise we will be destroying Delridge on our very own.

  • DelridgeV September 13, 2011 (11:44 am)

    As I see it, housing is a right for ALL people, not just those who behave well and have the basics of life figured out—remember we’re talking about mentally ill, extremely vulnerable people. DESC argues that people who have stable housing in a residential neighborhood environment are more likely to get clean, but even if they don’t DESC doesn’t believe they deserve to be denied shelter—we don’t even do that to criminals. You could argue they should all be kept downtown, but again the people we’re talking about are elderly and physically and mentally vulnerable, who have and will continue to be taken advantage of by the real criminals–drug dealers who prey on them, of which there is no shortage downtown. All that said, I don’t want to live in a society where only people who behave the way I want them to get their basic needs met, that’s not reasonable, fair, or, most importantly, just.

  • fraynkee September 13, 2011 (12:16 pm)

    I appeal to any and all persons the live in, near or care about the Delridge neighborhood to share this “development” with everyone and anyone so we can all rally for the good of our hood! I’ve been a resident of Delridge for 4 years now with the hopes that it only gets better and better, this will not help! But, unless we say something and speak up, it is probable that it will happen. it’s time to start making Delridge the neighborhood we want it to be. My friend commented to me (in regard to DRidge)the other day that you can’t polish a turd… I disagree! I’m ready to fight! Spread the word!

  • mcbride September 13, 2011 (12:43 pm)

    Social Justice is a complicated issue, and this isn’t news, by any stretch.
    The problem here is twofold. First, Justice does not equate to Fairness. Second, whose Justice are we talking about? Is the proposed DESC site Fair? Is it Just?
    The most eloquent argument I have seen to date hangs in the Men’s restroom at the Delridge library, which is only accessible by being buzzed in at the front desk. On the interior wall hangs a list of things you are not allowed to do in the bathroom. It isn’t a short list. I read it, and thought “What would cause them to put this bathroom in a lockdown state? How did they come up with this list of don’ts? Why is it even necessary? How many other public libraries in Seattle have the need to regulate their bathroom?”
    And then I thought about the children’s librarian, who shared with me how excited she was to grow a bedtime/storytime program at that branch, where a bunch of kids in pajamas come in at 7 PM for a reading.
    So here’s what I think. There are existing social justice issues in Delridge, which aren’t being addressed now. The people of Delridge are dealing with it, in a fashion more tolerant than can be reasonably expected. And that it’s the people who have the occasion to use that restroom who have first dibs on what’s fair and just in regards to what happens across the street.

  • neighbor with a heart (and a brain) September 13, 2011 (12:48 pm)

    I agree with JoAnne at 9:25, I know someone with mental illness in the situation she describes. I would support a well-run group home for schizophrenics, even next door to me, but not this. Not here in Delridge or anywhere else. This program enables dependent people to continue their self-destructive behaviors, and attracts people with active drug addiction problems and dealers to Seattle from other areas.

  • DRS September 13, 2011 (1:10 pm)

    I for one applaud the NDNC for aggressively pursuing the DESC.
    I think this proposed site taps into the fears each of us have already about our neighborhood. Without DESC we sometimes avoid the park or get uncomfortable at the bus stop.
    Homeless housing isn’t my first choice to go in across the street but getting to know our neighbors, calling the police whenever we feel unsafe and going to community meetings are the front lines of keeping Delridge a place we all want to live.
    We’ve only lived in the neighborhood for 9 months but we already know more neighbors than we have in all my years in Seattle and I feel safer here because of it.
    We need to demand accountability of DESC but that’s just part of what should be a comprehensive plan for the safety of our community,

  • KBear September 13, 2011 (1:42 pm)

    “This is not a NIMBY issue” packs the same credibility as any statement that begins, “I’m not a racist, but…”

  • DelridgeV September 13, 2011 (1:57 pm)

    Those who fight for justice don’t argue that it be metered out in a piecemeal fashion to those most deserving. The problems plaguing Delridge are not new, nor will they be solved by keeping those “others” out. Rather, we can create a beloved community only through integration, empathy, love and persistent action.

  • Sage September 13, 2011 (2:02 pm)

    @mcbride – How, pray tell, are children in pajamas relevant to mentally ill chronically homeless people unless you’re trying to suggest — against all evidence — that the DESC clients slated to live in this project have any record of preying on children?
    For further backing, I would list all the places in Delridge where I have used the bathroom but that seems a little silly, no?

  • mcbride September 13, 2011 (3:03 pm)

    Such conclusions! That is, in fact, not my point at all. Rather, it is intended to serve as a single example (of many), where the residents of Delridge are balancing adversity with community, and doing a fine job. That for all the hyperbole which comes out in situations like these, there is no one community more entitled to accept or decry this development. Their opinions, for or against, are earned.
    As a side note – you could list all the restrooms you’ve visited, and I agree, that would be silly. Since this one is across the street from the proposed DESC project, it has a certain significance.

  • kelly September 13, 2011 (3:17 pm)

    There is also a preschool next to the library. It doesn’t make sense on how they could put this type of housing near a preschool. It doesn’t make sense to me anyway…

  • Been there September 13, 2011 (4:18 pm)

    Mental illness is not a chosen way of life. Alcoholics and addicts suffer from a disease as well. There are many who have turned to alternate methods as a coping mechanism when the random selection of treatments are not creating the desired effect. This is not a perfect solution but it helps those who are in a desperate situation. Please look in your hearts and see if there is room for those whose needs are greater than the whole. I am proud to see West Seattle taking a stand and being a contributor instead of a bystander!!

  • dmtippy September 13, 2011 (4:37 pm)

    In response to all the posts stating that lower socio-economic areas are the only place where housing programs for persons with mental illness issues and/or addictions, you are mistaken. There is a 15 unit facility in the North Admiral area that is one block away from a popular park and grade school, (and yes both my kids went to this school) that has been housing formally homeless people who suffer from some type of mental illness. My guess is that some of them had/have addictions issues when they moved in. This place opened over 11 years ago and I’m pretty sure that the property values of the neighborhood did not go down when this facility opened. I was at the opening and talked with one of the new resident as they were moving in. The smile on his face over having his own apartment was wonderful. I don’t know the issues that lead him to become homeless but he now had a safe and secure place to call home. Many more of these types of facilities in neighborhoods across the area.

    Not every client of DESC uses drugs. For the people that do suffer from an addiction it has been shown that if you provide a safe place to live the chances of achieving sobriety greatly increase. Granted not every client who moves into one of these programs may not want to stop using at the time they move in. With increased access to professionals and the stress of not knowing where they were going to sleep or eat that night eliminated, they have a better chance of achieving sobriety or at least reduce the amount they use. Heck if I did not know where I was going to sleep or eat on a daily basis I’m sure I would use also to numb myself from what most likely is an awful feeling.
    Im going to leave with something to think about… Why is it that the street homeless addicts/alcoholics or mentally ill person deserves less housing support and services than the PTA member who is also and alcoholic, the grandmother who takes her “little pill to help with her anxiety” or your next door neighbor who is depressed or paranoid?

  • ketchup September 13, 2011 (6:38 pm)

    dmtippy – 15 is definitely more acceptable than 70, and you don’t have the same issues in North Admiral that we have on Delridge and far less SHA housing. If you had gangsters and drug dealers hanging out in front of your convenience stores and spitting all over your bus stops you’d be concerned about the deterioration of your neighborhood too. If we had less issues and more amenities on Delridge I’d be more open to the project, even I would not be so apprehensive now if it were only 15 PEOPLE instead of 70. I have a heart, it even bleeds a little, but enough is enough.

  • ESEIS September 13, 2011 (8:17 pm)

    It comes as no surprise that the majority of these type of facilities and the populations they serve have been placed in the least economically powerful and polictically connected
    neighborhoods. Just so happens that many of
    these same neighborhoods are very diverse in terms of their racial make-up.

    I beleive it is long past time that the City Council craft and implement some type of siting protocol for these type of facilities. Something along the lines of an Economic & Social Equity Impact statement. It could be a streamlined variant of the SEPA Land Use process.

    By creating some kind of siting requirements and analysis along the lines of an ESEIS the City Council would serve out equity and social justice by placing these facilities across the entire city, even mandating zoning changes if needed to avoid any specific neighborhoods current zoning from keeping the facilties out.

  • JoAnne September 13, 2011 (9:42 pm)

    I hope I am never so morally confused that I can’t recognize the difference between a law-abiding taxpaying self-sufficient person with an addiction and a lazy self-indulgent malingering mooch.

    DESC caters to the latter. They expect no effort whatsoever from their clients and could care less about the dismal rate of success of those in their program. Their only real accomplishment has been to foster dependency.

  • WS neighbor September 14, 2011 (12:50 am)

    So heartened to see a few brave souls speaking up on behalf of the rights of the mentally ill. Although even in this country, those with mental illness who are also poor rarely are allowed to exercise those rights, and they certainly don’t experience life as free.

    Let’s try to remember, (to paraphrase) There but for the grace of God (or insert your religious preference) goes us.

    If this facility were being proposed for my immediate neighborhood, I would work as hard as I could with DESC to safeguard both residents inside and outside the building.

  • JoAnne September 14, 2011 (9:12 am)

    These homes are primarily for actively using alcoholics/drug addicts, not the mentally ill.

    In fact, most of them are probably only “mentally ill” to the extent that they are deranged from many long years of substance abuse.

  • Kayleigh September 14, 2011 (10:27 am)

    JoAnne, the theory behind “housing first” is that addicts are more likely to succeed in treatment if they have a home—-specifically, a permanent, safe, home. It’s hard enough for addicts with financial means, a home, and a social support network to beat their addiction. Imagine trying to get sober while homeless and hungry. You can choose not to have sympathy, if you like, but I’m speaking to your logical brain here, not your emotional brain.
    This doesn’t make them “moochers”; someone who is that heavily addicted and/or mentally ill is likely to be unable to hold down a job. We’d all like to see fewer of those types of people, but I suspect that every society has a small number of them. What we choose to do about them says a lot about us. Me, I try to choose not to hate them (on my better days, anyway) and embrace compassion and evidence-based solutions.

  • Been There September 14, 2011 (3:13 pm)

    A prior post in this discussion used my handle ‘Been There’. This post was not by me, the one and only, real Been There.

  • Art Critic September 14, 2011 (3:46 pm)

    Our son is living with bipolar illness after a psychotic break 3 yrs ago. Thank goodness he is doing well now and even got a job and supports himself with an apartment as well. We have learned much since, about our’s and other’s ignorance of mental illness. We attended a DESC town hall in the lower Rainier area and came away dismayed about the hate-filled bullying by an organized lobby that showed up to shout down a rational discussion of the subject. These same people I am sure are filling up the WSB with their rantings.

    I have a msg for them and the compassionate public; people dealing with mental illness are all around us, they are not going away and you cannot deal with them by pretending they aren’t here or with your predilections towards a final solution. One in five people where you now live whether its Magnolia, or Delridge or anywhere on the planet are living with a mental illness in any given year. DESC is dealing with the issue in some of the best ways I have seen so far which is providing a hand up to people. The worse thing we can do as a society is allow arguably the most vulnerable amongst us to be living unstable on the streets in a kind of paranoid limbo, unable to get well. Housing provides the stability needed for some, not all, to start to heal and get well.

    Mental illness is not always an easy thing to deal with. We need to provide the same kind of wrap-around care someone with any other illness such as diabetes or cancer would get and not have a revolving door that drops ill people on the streets 72 hrs after being admitted to hospital. Its a real crime that a first world country such as the United States would behave in a 3rd World way and ignore this problem hoping it will just go away. We applaud the good work being done by DESC. We thank WSB for its balanced and informative coverage. Please cover these issues more! 25% of families have a family member dealing with a mental health issue in a given year. We need to de-stigmatize the issue, these are people who are sons, brothers, fathers, loved by families!

  • Delridge resident September 14, 2011 (6:06 pm)

    Hear what your saying about mentally and addicts needing help – so why not make it a requirement to live in these facilities to be in rehab or counseling/therapy? The fact that there is no such requirement doesn’t compel anyone to get better. It just enables them to continue in their pattern of addictive behavior.

  • Dmtippy September 15, 2011 (8:45 am)

    @delegate resident: It goes back to the housing first idea. Meet the person where they are at, provide housing then work on their addiction issues. Diabetics are not required to have their blood sugars under control nor does the person with high blood pressure need to have a heart attack before treatment is provided. Addiction is a disease, and homelessness is but one symptom or effect of the disease. Treat the symptom then treatment of the disease will be more successful.

  • I guess I'm heartless September 15, 2011 (1:37 pm)

    Delridge resident, I could not agree with you more, DESC does not require that their residents take their meds nor require therapy. So why would anyone want this warehouse in their neighborhood? How exactly does the ‘good neighbor’ policy work when one of DESC’s “clients” decides to stop taking their meds and has a psychotic break? I guess I’m just a nimby racist for not wanting this enabling organization in my neighborhood . The ‘housing first’ model that McGinn supports to create the most ‘homeless friendly’ city in the nation is going to be a disaster, DESC says they need to sometimes ‘romance’ the homeless into becoming their clients by removing any requirements that they quit the booze, drugs, and stay on their meds. I don’t know about you but if someone decided to give me a brand new Porsche contingent that I change the oil on it every 3 months, you can bet that I’d know everyone that worked at my local jiffy lube on a first name basis. When you subsidize something you get more of it. So I suspect in a couple of years Seattle will have more former and current homeless per capita than any other city in the nation. Which brings me to believe this current proposed location is all about money. Politicians get to push the homeless out of the downtown core, which is good for tourism. DESC gets cheap land for a new building, which is good for the developers. Why not a turn key property, there are lots of commercial properties due to the bust. Then they get to start collecting SSI benefits that would have otherwise been allocated to people of retirement age, this is why social security is in trouble.

  • Informed September 15, 2011 (6:26 pm)

    I am both a psychologist who is affiliated with DESC and a North Delridge resident. While I deeply appreciate our mutual concerns for living in a healthy and secure neighborhood, I see several examples in the comments relating to the DESC project as little more than ignorance and/or bigotry. The housing first, harm-reduction method is an empirically supported, innovative philosophy that unites social justice values with clinical research on treatment of chronic illnesses. Abstinence is not right for every person, and as some of you may know, abstinence is not a relapse-proof method. In fact, both models hope to achieve full recovery with abstinence and they do so by limiting the stress-related triggers or health risks to achieve such. Many folks will blow right out of your average treatment center because they cannot just stop using, stop being ill. DESC is known for it’s ability to work with people that other mental health agencies cannot help, and I am proud to be affiliated with such. Housing is not a reward for mental health, it is however, a prereq for mental wellness. It has been found over and over again that people get better with secure housing. As a psychologist, I am not interested in curing anyone because it is not a reasonable goal in mental health. I am however, motivated to help people find the most fulfillment in their lives as is possible to achieve, and that’s what harm-reduction is all about. Like wearing a seatbelt, or putting a helmet on your kid before they ride their bikes, we all practice harm-reduction every day and we have found that it does indeed work in regards to managing chronic illnesses such as addiction. I urge each of you to take tours of the facilities, look at the DESC website (esp the research tab which will show the benefits of the programs) and talk with neighbors who live in vicinity of other DESC projects. You don’t have to be a humanitarian to see why these programs are great for our community. You simply need to be informed.

  • I guess I'm heartless September 15, 2011 (11:30 pm)

    ” I see several examples in the comments relating to the DESC project as little more than ignorance and/or bigotry. ” Extra points for Ad hominem attacks!

  • Informed September 16, 2011 (5:00 pm)

    Also want to mention to JoAnne: DESC uses a measure of vulnerability for housing assignments, which always includes mental illness and usually addiction. In most cases, other issues are present such as chronic physical conditions that need maintenance (like diabetes), history of trauma, etc. I think that spending just a little bit of time with folks would help educate each of us and reduce bias or ideas that these clients are lazy, which indicates choice, and low motivation with high ability to function. DESC clients are typically the most low-functioning folks in our community. They are subject to incredible suffering and hardship that is way beyond any economic poverty or emotional hardship most folks can imagine. This is one of the main reasons that DESC clients typically cannot just start going to a 12 step meeting: they are stigmatized, shunned, and terrified. Supportive housing is a step in the direction of being able to help people re-gain some semblance of personal dignity. Head down to 3rd ave and watch how people treat each other, or attempt to engage with people and learn a bit about their lives or the way they think. Meet your neighbors. If you feel at all afraid, perhaps there is more to them than just being lazy. After all, laziness is easy to overcome.

  • I guess I\'m heartless September 16, 2011 (9:41 pm)

    Informed, even your handle conveys hubris, and your willingness to recind your humanity by calling commenters that don’t share your views ignorant bigots, renders your subsequent postings moot. I’ve met the neighbors directly behind your proposed facilitiy, you also suggest “social justice” (which is obsurd on the face of it, for there is only one true justice) I’m wondering if you can help me get this translated into Spanish, Thai, Cambodian, and Philipino.
    As a psychologist I would hope you could convey the same principle of charity on the people of this neighborhood that have valid concerns , even protestations, in the same way you do with those seeking your counsel. This holier than thou attitude that I’ve experianed even within the higher echelons of your organization isn’t winning me over.

  • Been There September 20, 2011 (10:22 am)

    @Informed – Do you really live in North Delridge or are you up on Puget Ridge near SSCC? If it is the latter, than you are a world away both geographically and socioeconomically.

    If you are truly a psychologist living in North Delridge then it is you who needs to become better INFORMED on the Land Use and Zoning issues that the proposed DESC project is trying to foist upon North Delridge. You may be knowledgeable on harm reduction as it pertains to homeless addicts or homeless with mental illness, yet you have missed the boat entirely on why this project is not good for North Delridge and at the same time not good for DESC clients.

  • Informed September 22, 2011 (8:51 pm)

    Yup, I truly do live in North Delridge, and I really like living here. I’m not going to respond in much detail to folks who are misinterpreting my post above, there’s no need for us as neighbors to engage in an internet-based power battle. I do see folks regularly on our block who I know could benefit from DESC services. I am excited about the prospect of bringing more housing here that is developed and sustained by professionals who get the dynamics of chronic illness and have the skills to implement innovative therapies to help folks heal. I also am glad to have more job opportunities in my neighborhood. I sincerely hope that we can balance our personal beliefs with the needs of the greater community and find a way to take care of those who most need us. Please understand- I work in a field that is totally under-resourced with clients who are either forgotten or left for dead. When non-profits like DESC meet resistance at critical junctures like this expansion, it feels personal. Let’s keep the dialogue open.

  • I guess I\\\'m heartless September 23, 2011 (7:28 pm)

    Hey Informed here is something that is empirically supported:

    A 2002 article from the Journal of Urban Affairs (Mashek Ex. 8) examined the extent to which proximity to 14 supportive housing facilities opening in Denver from 1992 to 1995 affected crime rates. The studied facilities represented “a wide range of clienteles and scale.” The articles classified as “large facilities” seven boarding homes that ranged in size from 53 to 164 beds. The article’s conclusions included the following statement:

    We found…no statistically significant evidence that the development of these facilities led to increased rates of reported violent, property, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, or total crimes. However for the subset of seven large facilities with 53 or more residents, rates of reported violent and total crime increased significantly within 500 feet of the site after they opened. We believe that the weight of the evidence suggests, however, that it is not the residents of these large supportive housing facilities who are perpetrating these crimes, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary. There is little doubt that supportive housing residents and crime remain linked in the minds of some Denver homeowners….We think it more likely, therefore, that the crime impact occurs because large facilities either provide a pool of potential victims and/or make it difficult for the neighborhood to maintain a collective efficacy.” Mashek Ex. 8, page 311.

  • I guess I'm heartless September 24, 2011 (7:57 am)

    Hey Tracy, was my last post rejected? Advise, if you have a chance.

  • I guess I\\\'m heartless September 24, 2011 (10:21 am)

    Informed, here is something that is empirically supported:

    A 2002 article from the Journal of Urban Affairs (Mashek Ex. 8) examined the extent to which proximity to 14 supportive housing facilities opening in Denver from 1992 to 1995 affected crime rates. The studied facilities represented “a wide range of clienteles and scale.” The articles classified as “large facilities” seven boarding homes that ranged in size from 53 to 164 beds. The article’s conclusions included the following statement:

    We found…no statistically significant evidence that the development of these facilities led to increased rates of reported violent, property, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, or total crimes. However for the subset of seven large facilities with 53 or more residents, rates of reported violent and total crime increased significantly within 500 feet of the site after they opened. We believe that the weight of the evidence suggests, however, that it is not the residents of these large supportive housing facilities who are perpetrating these crimes, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary. There is little doubt that supportive housing residents and crime remain linked in the minds of some Denver homeowners….We think it more likely, therefore, that the crime impact occurs because large facilities either provide a pool of potential victims and/or make it difficult for the neighborhood to maintain a collective efficacy.” Mashek Ex. 8, page 311.

  • Informed September 26, 2011 (7:07 pm)

    Interesting article. I like how they are showing that any time you have a large collection of connected housing, as in a residential building, you have more potential victims of crime. Seems obvious to me, not only for the simple math of more people means more victims, but also because crimes against the homeless are extremely under-reported and under-investigated. My clients who do get housing end up with way less victimization than when they were living on the streets, but no place is immune. Especially crimes of theft and assault, these stats are so hard to track in a transient community. Anyway, thanks for the article. It is such a sad fact that homeless and chronically mentally ill people are subject to so many levels of brutality. A better comparison would be to speak with current neighbors of other DESC projects, because the model is very specific. Hope you all are staying dry out there.

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