Two people in white protective suits move a large package out of Clare’s Place and into a storage container in the parking lot on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Two people in white protective suits move a large package out of Clare’s Place and into a storage container in the parking lot on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dozens in limbo due to meth, fentanyl contamination at Clare’s Place

Tests detected meth and fentanyl in 48 of 65 “housing first” units in Everett. It’s the latest supportive housing community to need decontamination.

EVERETT — Clare’s Place was quiet Monday but for a person in a hazmat suit vacuuming the building. The 65-unit housing community’s windows and doors were open for ventilation.

Residents were in their third month of limbo after the supportive housing community in Everett tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl contamination. In October, county health authorities ordered everyone to vacate the building at 6200 12th Drive SE, in the Glacier View neighborhood.

“I have no idea when they’ll let us back in,” resident Kim Poulas said last week. “Last I heard, they said maybe two weeks.”

Clare’s Place provides permanent supportive housing for people who have been homeless for at least a year. In September, the tests showed drug contamination in 48 of the 65 units, as well as in common spaces and offices.

Clare’s Place is the latest supportive housing community in the county to need decontamination from drug use. In late 2022, tests revealed contamination in two former hotels, the Days Inn in Everett and America’s Best Value Inn in Edmonds, after the county purchased the hotels to provide emergency shelter to the homeless. This March, the department of health found contamination in a Housing Hope-owned apartment complex in Snohomish after at least one resident became ill.

The city and county paid more than $400,000 to erect 30 Pallet Shelter units and temporarily house some of the 52 residents. Others have stayed at nearby hotels or with whoever would take them in, Poulas said. It was unclear if residents were paying for their own hotel stays.

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, which owns and operates Clare’s Place and similar facilities in Seattle and Bellingham, declined multiple requests for comment. Employees working out of a portable building in the parking lot told a Daily Herald reporter to leave the property Monday.

The nonprofit reported the contamination to the county health department in September. Three weeks later, the health department issued an order for the building’s decontamination.

Storage containers and a dumpster sit in the parking lot outside of Clare’s Place on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Storage containers and a dumpster sit in the parking lot outside of Clare’s Place on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“After initial testing confirmed contamination in late September, Health Department staff began working with Clare’s Place to gather more information,” health department spokesperson Kari Bray said.

Tests revealed meth contamination levels in the range of 2 to 4,000 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. The state’s decontamination standard is 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters.

Fentanyl contamination results were in the range of 0.13 to 0.17 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. The state has not determined a decontamination standard for fentanyl or a fentanyl level that is safe for human exposure.

The results were “concerning but not necessarily surprising, given the flood of fentanyl and other drugs into our community,” Bray said. “This type of contamination can seem shocking, but it can be cleaned up safely and effectively.”

Methamphetamine smoke can contaminate house surfaces, furnishings and personal items. Adverse health effects from contamination can include behavioral changes, respiratory illnesses and skin irritation, according to the county health department. This year, the department issued decontamination orders for four properties, including Clare’s Place.

Before the evacuation, Community Health Center of Snohomish County had staff on site to provide medical services to Clare’s Place residents. The organization is not concerned about sending workers back into the building after decontamination, spokesperson Karen Kirwin said.

“Our workers were notified of the contamination in a timely fashion and were able to evacuate,” Kirwin said. “We have worked with Catholic Community Services for a long time, and have no plans to end that partnership.”

City, county and Pallet shelter staff worked “around the clock” to establish 30 temporary homes for evacuated tenants, according to the city’s posts on social media. Pallet delivered the units Oct. 13, and they were ready for use the next day.

The city has not provided other financial support for resident care or the decontamination process, city spokesperson Simone Tarver said last week.

Poulas, who has been living in one of the Pallet units, said the transition has been rough. In the first few days, residents didn’t have full access to bathrooms, electricity or running water, he said.

“They’re treating us like (expletive),” Poulas said. “My unit was not one of the contaminated ones. I don’t know if I’m going to be kicked out, or have to take tests to prove that I’m clean. I don’t want to be treated like a criminal.”

Clare’s Place began housing residents in July 2019. The apartment complex follows a “housing first” model and does not require residents to prove sobriety before entry. It provides services to help residents overcome homelessness.

In 2017, about half of the public comments submitted in response to the city’s plans for Clare’s Place were against the development. One resident collected more than 100 signatures from neighbors in opposition. That year, the City Council approved a $200,000 grant and donated the land to be used for low-barrier housing for at least 50 years.

Tarver said the situation at Clare’s Place contributed to Mayor Cassie Franklin establishing a drug crisis task force in October to help determine short- and long-term solutions. A cadre of business leaders, elected officials, community members and experts are set to begin meetings this winter.

“The City of Everett wants to be part of seeking solutions for these very complex problems,” Tarver said.

State law requires Catholic Community Services to hire a state Department of Health-certified drug lab cleanup contractor for decontamination. The building must remain unoccupied until it is deemed safe according to state standards.

As of last week, the county had not received post-cleanup sample results.

Timeline

Sept. 22: Catholic Community Services notifies Snohomish County Health Department that units at Clare’s Place have been contaminated with methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Late September to early October: Snohomish County Health Department helps the nonprofit gather further information, confirming 48 of 65 units are contaminated.

Oct. 13: Health department orders residents and staff to evacuate. Pallet delivers 30 shelter units. They’re ready for move-in within 24 hours.

Nov. 30: Health department confirms it has approved a work plan for decontamination, but hasn’t received post-cleanup sample results.

Correction: A previous version of this story quoted incorrect numbers on contamination levels at Clare’s Place.

Sydney Jackson: 425-339-3430; sydney.jackson@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @_sydneyajackson.

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