Kitsap County homeless shelter complex nearing completion
BREMERTON – The first time Monica Bernhard walked into one of the unfinished apartments on Pendleton Place, she started crying.
“They already have room numbers above them, and I’m just trying to imagine who that person will be that we’re going to bring in and finally give them a place to live,” said Bernhard, chief operating officer of Kitsap Mental Health Services officer.
“It sucks me up.”
While it’s not finished yet, Pendleton Place is now more than an idea – Kitsap County’s first permanent housing development has floors and walls and a roof. Contractors from the Port Orchard-based BJC Group are completing the framework and preparing to begin drywall construction on the 47,903 square meter residential building.
“I’m so excited, I can’t believe we’re actually here,” said Bernhard.
Bernhard and other representatives from Kitsap Mental Health Services – who are spearheading the project – met Wednesday afternoon with a dozen local officials, including Bremerton’s Mayor Greg Wheeler, Sen. Emily Randall of the 26th Caldier, and District Commissioners Rob Gelder and Ed Wolfe.
What began as an idea of providing affordable housing to Kitsap County’s most vulnerable residents is nearing completion. Kitsap Mental Health Services full funding secured for the project last summer, construction began in the fall. Bernhard hopes to be able to start moving in the tenants in March 2022.
Funding for the project came from the Bremerton Housing Authority, 1/10 of 1% county treatment tax, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a state grant, state low income tax credits, and other sources. Bremerton’s Mayor Greg Wheeler said he was “very proud of this partnership and how it came together”.
“(Pendleton Place) will be of tremendous benefit to our citizens as they emerge from drug addiction and other challenges,” said Wheeler.
Patty Lent, president of Kitsap Mental Health’s board of directors, said the project has been “like a dream, an idea” so far. The facility will follow the Housing First model, which means that people who are chronically homeless and struggling with mental illness and substance abuse disorders will be housed before working on these problems.
“(Pendleton Place is) the first thing that will really make a difference, 72 people are going to have different lifestyles and we are not just going to take them and switch,” Lent said.
Permanent living for the weakest
Pendleton Place, west of Highway 3 on Kitsap Way, will provide permanent shelter for homeless people struggling with mental illness and drug addiction. The aim is to accommodate the “most vulnerable” residents in Kitsap while providing support services around the clock.
The 72-unit building will include 36 one-bedroom apartments and 36 studio apartments, each between 335 and 450 square meters. All units have a small kitchenette, a bathroom and an intercom. The facility will have two “common rooms” for residents with illness or crises, a communal area with a view of Highway 3 and Oyster Bay, a small system of paths with a dog park and a computer room.
Contractors placed lumber orders in January before lumber prices skyrocketed. Overall, the project went on schedule and on budget, which allowed Kitsap Mental Health Services to use emergency funds to add solar panels and a commercial kitchen to the facility, Bernhard said.
“If community groups come here and want to organize a meal for the people who live here, they have the opportunity to do so,” said Bernhard.
Permanent supportive living is not accommodation, a hospital or a facility for psychiatric treatment, said Bernhard. Residents sign a lease and are responsible for paying their rent on time, just like in any other apartment complex. The difference is that Pendleton Place is staffed 24/7 with case managers who can help residents struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.
“We will have people who will see where someone has problems, we will be able to see and engage this person before a breakdown occurs,” said Bernhard.
Kitsap Mental Health Services is in the process of identifying Kitsap County residents who will qualify for living on Pendleton Place. The nonprofit goes through lists of people who have applied for an apartment through the Housing Solutions Center who have identified themselves as chronically homeless and have mental health problems. Bernhard contacted the Kitsap Rescue Mission, Scarlet Road, the Kitsap NAACP, and other county social services.
“We also want to ensure diversity so that the people who live here reflect the diversity of the homeless population,” said Bernhard.
Kitsap Mental Health Services will now run through November to list people who qualify on the first of each month and contact them to see if they are interested. Employees will be walking through homeless camps to connect with people who are not currently on the system.
The Bremerton Housing Authority has provided 56 low-income housing vouchers tied to Pendleton Place – meaning they don’t expire if a resident decides to move out. Once a final list has been submitted to the Bremerton Housing Authority, staff will go through and help residents complete the paperwork they need to receive a voucher. Once approved, there is no limit to how long a resident can stay.
“The aim here is to promote the maintenance of housing, because that is often missing from chronically homeless people,” says Bernhard.