Building to house homeless breaks ground in Interbay

KING 5's Meg Coyle reports

SEATTLE -- It doesn't look like much now. An old parking lot on 15th Avenue West in Interbay still houses a few cars. But soon it will be home to 97 of Seattle's most vulnerable -- people with severe mental illness and addiction issues.

"I don't think anyone of us wants to see someone who's living an acutely challenged life it's really disturbing," said Bill Hobson, executive director of Seattle non-profit Downtown Emergency Services Center.

Homelessness may be hard to look at. It's even harder to live with.

"You have no place to go you don't have a home."

Cynthia Lowry knows homelessness and she knows mental illness. For her, living with both meant barely surviving, until DESC found a permanent home for her in another one of its buildings.

"I was in and out of the hospital three times a year every year for mental health issues until DESC put me in Canaday House and I have not been back to the hospital since," said Lowry.

Because of the location, there was no formal design review process. DESC did hold a couple of community meetings to address neighbors' concerns, like the fact the building is going up right across the street from a Little Gym.

"There is a tragic misperception about the relationship between mental illness and violence in this country," said Hobson. "Statistically, if you control for primary family members, people living with severe and persistent mental disorders are far less assaultive or violent than all the rest of us are."

It's not just home, it's help with on-site treatment and clinical support specialists.

"Reducing the amount of money taxpayers are paying on their care in the emergency department or psychiatric health bills," said Hobson.

Hobson says it's not only a cost-cutting move, it's a life-saving one. Just ask Cynthia Lowry.

"Having a roof over my head is everything to me it means everything to me," said Lowry.

DESC has 11 buildings like the one going up in Interbay. All of them are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and residents are required to check in and out when they come and go. The building is expected to open in about 13 months.


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