Historic Everett building could serve as alternative to jail

EVERETT — A proposal to renovate the former Carnegie Library into transitional housing for the homeless received a boost from the state.

Legislators allocated $1.34 million from the state’s capital budget for the project, which is being called the Rapid Recidivism Reduction Center. The county will still need to raise about $600,000 to complete the $2.1 million in renovations.

“This is a wonderful starting point to create a place where we’re helping people put their lives back together,” said Mary Jane Brell Vujovic, the director of Snohomish County Human Services.

The proposal calls for creating a place that provides temporary housing and social services for people released from jail for nonviolent crimes, or as an alternative to the county lockup.

The plan is to build 20 bedrooms with shared living spaces on one floor. The second floor will house mental health, substance abuse and job training services. Staff also will help participants sign up for health insurance, connect them with a primary care doctor and refer them to other community services.

It is expected to cost about $1.2 million a year to run the program. That money will come from local sales tax already collected and specifically earmarked for substance abuse and mental health services, and from county fees for marriage licenses and other services.

Most of the participants are expected to qualify for public health care, which would reimburse the county for drug and alcohol addiction programs and mental health services.

Proponents say the center will help reduce costly trips to emergency rooms and calls to 911. It also will be aimed at decreasing the number of people living on the streets, many who are mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or both.

“We want to avoid jail and prison if at all possible but if they happen to serve time, we want to make sure it’s only once,” said Keith, the president of the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Finding long-term housing is one of the biggest challenges facing people being released from jail. Last year, the county conducted a series of interviews with three dozen jail inmates to look at poverty conditions among those incarcerated. More than half reported having been homeless in the past year. Nearly 28 percent were homeless when they were booked into the jail and 22 percent said they anticipated not having anywhere to live once they were released.

Nearly half of the inmates surveyed didn’t have regular health care and about 22 percent said they use hospital emergency rooms to get routine medical services.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary endorses the project. He’s been vocal about changing how the community uses the jail. It’s been used as the county’s de facto mental health facility and detox center for too long, Trenary has said.

The average stay in the housing unit likely would be about 90 days, Brell Vujovic said.

The county will be working with its community partners, such as those who provide behavioral health services, and with Everett and those involved with its Community Streets Initiative.

It could take up to two years for the center to open. The county says it plans to maintain the historical integrity of the building.

The Carnegie building was constructed in 1905 to house the city’s library, which moved out in 1934. The building later housed a funeral parlor and there was some talk of turning it into a museum.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been vacant for several years and was last used to house the jail’s work release program.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A person walks their dog along a flooded Old Snohomish Monroe Road on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Flood-resistant floors and sandbags are price of riverside life in Sultan

Flooding is a threat every year for 75,000 locals — and the long-term forecast suggests it’ll only get worse in the coming decades.

3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Team members prep for the upcoming ski season at Stevens Pass Resort in Skykomish, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Any day now: All eyes on snow forecast at Stevens Pass

The ski area was a flurry of activity this week, as staff made sure a new lift and app were running smoothly.

Carjacking suspects tracked via GPS from Everett to Renton, then arrested

A King County resident reported two people stole their Mercedes at gunpoint. Hours later, its GPS tracker pinged in north Everett.

Man sentenced for racist threats to Edmonds animal control officer

Sean Wagner spewed slurs at an officer who seized his dogs. He was sentenced to jail for a hate crime.

A sign in front of the AquaSox front office references the upcoming Everett City Council vote on a sum of $1.1 million to give to outside contractors to help upgrade a new stadium on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett AquaSox stadium upgrade gets $1.1M green light from city

City officials want to keep the team in Everett. But will they play in a new stadium downtown in 2027? Or an updated Funko Field?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.