75 hard-core alcoholics to be offered apartments
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seventy-five hard-core alcoholics, accustomed to living on the streets and spending nights in emergency rooms, detox centers or jail cells, are about to get an invitation to move into a new apartment building all their own on the edge of downtown Seattle.
There is a proviso, however. While allowed to drink all the booze they want in their rooms, they must agree to behave responsibly when outside. That's because the tenants now will be neighbors in a business district that plans to watch them closely for any slip-ups.
After much controversy and a failed legal challenge, the Downtown Emergency Service Center is set to open at 1811 Eastlake Ave. It is an $11.2 million, four-story housing project for 75 homeless men and women who are among Seattle's worst-case chronic alcoholics. Tenants are being picked from a list of those identified by King County as draining the most emergency and criminal-justice resources — and therefore taxpayer dollars — from the community.
Each tenant of the building, named 1811 Eastlake, will have been addicted to alcohol for at least 15 years and failed at alcohol treatment at least six times. Most will be at least 45 years old, and the chance of ever getting sober is next to nil.
They are nobody's idea of an ideal neighbor. Yet those with investments in the Denny Triangle business district, including some who opposed the project initially, appear to be keeping an open mind.
"We want to work cooperatively to make it as successful as possible," said Brent Camann, assistant manager of SpringHill Suites, a hotel with rooms that look down onto 1811 Eastlake's two smoking decks.
Downtown Emergency Service Center also operates an overnight shelter for homeless people and other low-income housing for formerly homeless people. Bill Hobson, executive director, said he appreciates the opportunity to prove that 1811 Eastlake will not be a neighborhood nuisance.
The secure building includes 49 fully furnished studios with kitchens and baths and 26 open cubicles — with a bed, armoire, desk and shared bath — designed for residents who require closer monitoring. Tenants should start moving in next week, and 1811 Eastlake is to be full by February.
Though it's not an alcohol-treatment center, Hobson said, he hopes tenants will moderate their drinking over time. Five clinicians and a registered nurse have been hired. The minimum number of staffers in the building will be three, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., Hobson said.
Tenants will be able to come and go as they please, but the number of visitors they have will be restricted. Tenants who repeatedly break house rules, including the "good neighbor" behavior provision of the lease, will be subject to eviction.
Hobson said the staff is going to be more concerned about the behavior of tenants than their level of intoxication.
"Drinking is not an excuse for behaving badly," he said.
The project is the first of its kind in Washington, and only the second in the country, to offer housing exclusively for homeless chronic alcoholics. The Wintonia, on Capitol Hill, devotes 45 of its 92 units to that population.
Hobson said 1811 Eastlake is the only project in the country to specifically seek out those who use the most community resources devoted to emergency, criminal-justice and detox services. Social workers began hitting the streets Tuesday in search of those on King County's list. Hobson predicted that few will refuse the offer of a new apartment.
"Chronic alcoholics have an addiction, but they are not stupid," he said. "They want a safe place to stay and people around who care about them."
Robb Anderson, co-owner of Northwest Trophy, a shop next to 1811 Eastlake, said he is trying to give the project the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm not happy about it, but I'm also not going to judge people without seeing them," he said. "I'm concerned about it for the sake of my customers and my employees. Let's see what happens."
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published December 15, 2005, was corrected December 15, 2005. The co-owner of Northwest Trophy is Robb Anderson, not Rob Johnson as reported in a previous version of this story.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company