Sarah Jayne Barrett, director of housing for Catholic Community Services, gives U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen a tour of a new low-barrier affordable housing project set to open next year. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Sarah Jayne Barrett, director of housing for Catholic Community Services, gives U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen a tour of a new low-barrier affordable housing project set to open next year. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

New housing for chronically homeless will have on-site care

The project in Everett, to open next year, will provide permanent homes — and lots of support.

EVERETT — A new low-barrier housing project will offer the chronically homeless more than a permanent place to live when it opens next year. Residents will also have access to medical and dental care on-site.

A patient care room also is being included.

“We want to get as many services in the building as possible,” said Rita Jo Case, the associate housing director for Catholic Community Services, the organization spearheading the effort.

The new building is on Berkshire Drive in the Glacier View neighborhood in central Everett.

Many who are chronically homeless are living with concurrent conditions such as mental illness, addiction and medical issues, Case said.

“Convincing people to go to the doctor can be challenging,” she said.

So to encourage residents to seek care, Catholic Community Services is working to partner with Community Health Center of Snohomish County. The proposal would bring medical and dental services directly to tenants.

Low-barrier projects are part of the Housing First model that prioritizes stable, supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. Once that happens, service providers connect them with other assistance programs and treatment.

“You can’t think about anything else if you don’t know where you are going to sleep that night,” said Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, director of human services for Snohomish County.

The new low-barrier affordable housing project set to open next year is located on Berkshire Drive in the Glacier View neighborhood. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

The new low-barrier affordable housing project set to open next year is located on Berkshire Drive in the Glacier View neighborhood. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

With the new low-barrier site, she said those living there “can wake up in the morning and think what I am going to do today, and not what do I need to do today.”

The four-story building will contain about 65 units, mostly studios with a handful of one-bedrooms. Each apartment will have a kitchen, bathroom, washer and dryer. The shelter will be staffed 24 hours a day. Catholic Community Services plans to start leasing units in mid-May.

This project is aimed at the chronically homeless, who are defined as those who’ve been living without shelter for at least a year or have been without housing four times in the past three years.

Residents will have to follow rules set out in the lease. The Housing First model doesn’t mandate participation in treatment or social services, which is where the “low-barrier” name comes from.

In the planning stages, the project drew criticism from some neighbors, especially around the city’s timeline for communicating decisions.

Catholic Community Services predicts the units will fill quickly and there won’t be a lot of turnover.

The organization will use the county’s coordinated entry system to place residents, who are not limited in the amount of time they can stay. Those who are considered the most vulnerable — such as people who have been homeless for a year or longer or have a documented disability — are placed at the top of that list.

The city of Everett and Snohomish County are partnering with Catholic Community Services on the project. Everett contributed the land for the new building and the county gave $1.6 million.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen toured the site Tuesday as part of a series of discussions on affordable housing he is holding around his congressional district.

“Getting folks a roof overhead is a goal we are trying to meet for everyone,” he said.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @lizzgior.

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