SEATTLE — Dennis Bateman’s studio apartment has enough space for a bed, a desk with a computer, a dresser, a couple of chairs and a small shelf.
An acoustic guitar sits on a stand, plants fill most of the corners and a small collection of toddler’s push-and-pull toys is lined up under the shelf.
“I guess I didn’t have any toys as a kid, so I like these. And little dinosaurs.”
For the past three years, Bateman has lived in Patrick Place, an apartment building in North Seattle for formerly homeless people run by Catholic Housing Services, part of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Bateman, 63, never had his own apartment before.
Patrick Place is for people who, like Bateman, have been homeless for much of their lives. It’s also a model for the kind of project the city of Everett is planning to build.
Bateman’s story began in the foster care system: He ran away from a physically and sexually abusive foster family at age 13, he said. No one taught him the basics of how to live, so he drifted into alcohol, drugs and crime.
“I had no blueprint,” he said.
He was married to a fellow addict for 18 years, and occasionally had a home because his wife’s family had money. But he rarely worked; and he woke up one morning in 2006 to find his wife dead next to him. He went back to cycling between shelters, the streets and jail.
His criminal record runs the gamut from theft to assault, drug use, fraud and bail jumping. All of it goes back to a common source: his need to feed his drug habit.
He keeps a framed wanted poster of himself from Derby, Kansas, in 2005.
“I just kept it because it’s a reminder of who I used to be,” he said.
Bateman was living in a shelter in Kent when Catholic Housing determined that he was an ideal candidate for its new housing project.
When Patrick Place opened in January 2014, Bateman and 70 other people moved in. In a matter of days, he went from being homeless to having a place to call his own.
Patrick Place is what’s known as a low-barrier permanent supportive housing. With 71 units, it’s about the same size as what Everett wants to build on a city-owned lot on Berkshire Drive, half a block off Evergreen Way.
Everett also has turned to Catholic Housing Services, which owns and runs Patrick Place, to manage the new project. Catholic Housing, in turn, has secured $2.45 million from the state Housing Trust Fund to get the $14 million project off the ground. If the plan keeps to schedule, construction could start by the end of the summer.
“We felt confident that they were the right entity for this particular population, because they have focused their expertise on chronically homeless individuals,” said Everett Director of Public Safety and Health Hil Kaman.
Catholic Housing runs several low-barrier buildings in the region: Patrick Place, Francis Place in Bellingham and Sebastian Place in Lynnwood, which focuses on homeless veterans.
Requirements for getting a unit are minimal. Candidates are chosen based on need and the main restrictions are against convicted sexual offenders and arsonists.
New tenants don’t need to be sober or psychologically stable. In fact, those people are often the most vulnerable of the homeless population, and thus are higher priority candidates for housing. Social workers and therapists are on site to help with addiction, mental health services or even basic life skills like doing laundry.
It’s also a recognition that it is almost impossible for people living rough to get sober.
It took Bateman more than a year after moving into Patrick Place to kick his addictions to methamphetamine and heroin, and another year afterward to stop smoking marijuana.
His counselors were downstairs on the first floor. “Everything was right here in the building for me,” he said.
It’s not that there aren’t any rules. Misbehavior, such as damaging the building or assaulting other tenants or staff, can result in a resident being removed, but even then, Catholic Housing is likely to find other accommodations more suited to that person’s needs.
“The Catholics, they won’t give up on anybody,” Bateman said.
A model for Everett
When Mayor Ray Stephanson convened the Community Streets Initiative task force in 2014, the plan was to generate a list of ideas to combat rampant homelessness in the city.
The group came back with 63 recommendations, several of which already have been put into effect, such as a special police unit with embedded social workers.
Central to all those initiatives, however, was facing up to the reality that there just wasn’t enough housing for at-risk people.
“It was one of those things that was recognized as a huge gap,” Kaman said.
A low-barrier model was chosen, and Patrick Place was an oft-cited example of what could eventually come to Everett.
Neighbors in Everett’s Pinehurst and Glacier View neighborhoods rebelled, however, when the city announced it wanted to build its project on the lot shared by a fire training facility and a reservoir.
People accused the city of keeping them in the dark until a decision had already been made. In fact, more than 30 other locations were considered and rejected. They weren’t revealed until after the city had settled on its preferred site.
Neighbors already have had to deal with problems of homelessness, drug use and other crimes. They worry the housing project would only add to those problems.
Stephanson later admitted he didn’t do enough public outreach, but he stood by the choice of the project and location.
Kaman said the neighborhood concerns are leading to change. In April, the city plans to start developing ideas to make the area safer and more attractive and with better services.
Catholic Housing makes a point of building relationships with neighbors, said Will Rice, the Northwest Agency Director of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. That outreach includes having neighbors know how to contact the building’s staff, since one of the most common fears is of lax management.
“We’re not just sitting back waiting for phone calls, but being out there and making sure we know their concerns with what’s working and what’s not working,” Rice said.
Rice said that there will be more opportunities to talk and work with the community.
Patrick Place is on a busy stretch of Aurora Avenue North in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, backed by single-family homes, row houses and other apartment buildings.
The building is clean and freshly painted. A common room has a large television and billiard table, and another office has computers for the tenants. Bulletin boards advertise meetings with peer advisers, cooking classes or a ticket giveaway to the recent 2017 U.S. Curling Championships in Everett.
There’s also a communal laundry on every floor and a roof garden that, on sunny days, has views of both the Cascade and Olympic mountains. From the outside, it looks like just one of many new apartment houses in Seattle.
Inside, the signs that the residents were recently homeless are subtle: security cameras in the hallways and elevator, announcements of various therapeutic group meetings, the secure entry with a front desk staffed around the clock.
The low-barrier model sets Patrick Place apart from traditional homeless shelters. Only people who have gone through King County’s coordinated entry system can be assigned housing there.
“Because a lot of shelters have curfews, people are lining up outside. Because this is supportive, people are home, or they’re on their way someplace,” said Charles Schrag, the project manager for Patrick Place.
People can stay as long as they want or need to, and a small number have found their footing and moved on to other low-income or senior housing.
“Some get employed and move into market housing. One bought a house,” Schrag said.
But those are the exceptions. “The majority of folks will stay,” he said.
Neighbors reaching out
When Patrick Place opened in January 2014, the surrounding neighborhood was prepared.
That stretch of Aurora Avenue had been a magnet for homeless people, drug dealers and prostitutes. A lot of the activity was centered on three rundown motels.
“For at least 12 years, the neighborhood had been organized to tamp down on crime on Aurora,” said Linda Clifton, a longtime board member of the Fremont Neighborhood Council.
The city eventually demolished two of the motels, and the third changed ownership, Clifton said. Neighbors worried about what would replace them.
There was a lot of outreach, said Danielle Wise, the director of homeless services for Catholic Community Services. It wasn’t limited to calling meetings and hoping neighbors would show up, she said. They looked for community events to attend to answer questions about Patrick Place.
“There were folks that were concerned about who would be living in the house that we had built,” Wise said. “Again, because of the problems they had with the motels there, they were like, ‘Are you just inviting the motel crowd back?’ ”
There was a lot of feedback about the design of the building, she said, and it was changed to avoid “nooks and crannies” outside where people might gather. She also solicited art from local artists.
“There was at least appreciation that they were being forthcoming,” Clifton said. “They weren’t just plopping it in the neighborhood and saying, ‘Deal.’ ”
The neighborhood has adapted, although for some, little adjustment was necessary.
“I didn’t even know it was there,” said Alex Cohen, who recently bought a row house with his wife and children a block away from Patrick Place. He has lived in the immediate area since 1998, he said.
Cohen said he knew it was a housing project, but not what kind.
Ben Wyatt, who has rented a duplex on the same street for four years, also said that aside from more foot traffic, Patrick Place hasn’t had any noticeable effect.
“No problems, just comings and goings,” Wyatt said.
Scott Staples, the owner of the Uneeda Burger restaurant on Fremont Avenue, said he was aware of the area’s challenges when he first opened in 2010.
“I do know there was a lot of indigent stuff going on the neighborhood, and a lot more transiency stuff, people snooping around at night,” Staples said. “Once they kind of tore down a lot of the old motels, all of that went away.”
Old and new Dennis
The transition from shelter living to having a permanent home wasn’t easy, Bateman said.
For the first week he continued going back to the shelter in Kent to hang out and sleep until the staff told him, literally, to go home.
He then slept on the floor of his room for two years in a “nest” made from blankets and pillows. He felt safer that way, and still had bad memories from when his wife died, he said.
Bateman made Patrick Place work for him. He started by picking up a mop and cleaning the floors. He made a connection with the Fremont Arts Council, and that got him involved in preserving a memorial bench in the neighborhood. He started attending Fremont Neighborhood Council meetings.
In 2016 he helped organize a neighborhood cleanup, and in January he took part in Seattle’s Point in Time homeless count as a guide.
Bateman knows he is a work in progress. He takes meditation classes to learn how to calm himself down when his old anxieties start kicking in. It’s all a part of trying to separate the “new Dennis” from the “old Dennis.”
“I’m still in the icky middle,” Bateman said. But since he’s quit drugs, money is no longer an issue, having a home has relieved a lot of anxiety, and he’s found new energy and focus in his life.
“I’m happy with the way I am now. I like Dennis,” he said.
He speculated that maybe he’d try to get a job. Then he laughed.
“At 63, my life’s just beginning,” Bateman said.