SEATTLE—With 75 units, the $15 million Evans House is a small step toward King County's goal of creating 2,900 units of housing over a 10-year period to end homelessness. However, with 35 units reserved for people who have just been released from a state psychiatric hospital and backed by extensive supportive services, Evans House is targeted toward the hardest homeless population segment to serve.
Opened in October 2007, Evans House “takes in the most vulnerable people with the most challenges in keeping stable housing,” says Jackie MacLean, director of King County Department of Community Human Services. “So even though it's a little drop in the bucket, it is a very valuable service.”
Take, for example, Matthew, who moved into the facility in December. According to an article excerpted from an upcoming Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) newsletter, Matthew graduated top of his class and had a master's degree in business by the time he was 22. He owned his own home by his mid-30s, but by age 37, Matthew was homeless, despite his family's attempts to help him.
Mental illness had made Matthew paranoid, and he began to threaten his family, says sister Diane. For seven years, he was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and jail— sleeping on the street in the stretches in between.
“I'd ask him why he wouldn't use the shelters,” Diane notes in the newsletter article. “He'd say, ”˜I'm not a bum. But I couldn't invite him back to my house. I have two small children. So I'd give him warm clothes and food instead.'”
Since Matthew moved into Evans House, he has participated in the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) run by DESC, the developer. Residents participating in PACT work with all the on-site health and social workers instead of having just one case manager, according to Mary Ann Millican, director of development for DESC.
“So residents get a lot of different viewpoints and ideas on problems,” says Millican. “And everyone is able to help any of the PACT clients, who don't have to wait, for example, until the next Tuesday when their particular case manager is back on-site.”
DESC is a state-licensed and countycontracted mental health case management provider. Despite a reduction in Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for ongoing support services, DESC found a way to underwrite services at the project. Evans House is one of the first housing developments in the nation to use Medicaid-funded mental health services to pay on-site clinical staff.
“This is the first time that my family and I have had any hope that he'll be OK,” says Diane of her brother's new life at Evans House. “For the first time, I can relax. He does well at Evans House because he's treated with respect, and not like a bum. He's got a key to his own place. The last time he had that, he owned his own home.”