Community leaders, including Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin (left) and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers (center right), break ground Tuesday at the site of future low-barrier housing on Berkshire Drive in Everett. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Community leaders, including Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin (left) and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers (center right), break ground Tuesday at the site of future low-barrier housing on Berkshire Drive in Everett. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Mayor: ‘Providing housing makes our entire community safer’

She and other leaders broke ground on a low-barrier housing project in Everett on Tuesday.

EVERETT — Tuesday was a fitting day to break ground on homeless housing in Everett, said Will Rice with Catholic Community Services.

It was pouring rain. The timing corresponded with a Snohomish County-wide effort to tally numbers about homelessness.

Rice asked those who gathered at the ceremony under canopies to think about the people who wake up without shelter.

“This is the reason we’re doing this work today,” he said, before leading a prayer for “shelter, security and hope.”

Rice joined Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, former Mayor Ray Stephanson and others in turning the first few shovelfuls of soil at 6107 Berkshire Drive, just off Evergreen Way. The city recently transferred the land to Catholic Housing Services and Catholic Community Services. Those organizations plan to build a 65-unit housing complex that primarily would serve the chronically homeless and those living with mental illness.

“Providing housing makes our entire community safer,” Franklin said.

Construction could wrap up in 2019. Most of the costs are borne by Catholic Housing Services and funded by tax credits and grants, which the city helped secure. The Everett Housing Authority also expects to issue housing vouchers for the site, which could amount to $17.5 million over the next 20 years, pending a contract.

There was no mention Tuesday of the site’s controversy among neighbors, some of whom have been critical of the location and how decisions were communicated. One man attends nearly every City Council meeting to share his opposition.

At the ceremony, County Executive Dave Somers said he expects the project to save lives, not just through sheltering but also through services surrounding mental health and addiction.

“It really shows the heart of this community,” he said.

The needs around homelessness remain significant, and this is the beginning of a better response, Stephanson said.

After the ceremony, he and Franklin shared a hug.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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