BREMERTON – The first time Monica Bernhard walked into one of the unfinished apartments in Pendleton Place, she started to cry.
“They already have room numbers written above them, and I’m just trying to imagine who that person will be, that we’re going to bring in from outside and finally give them a housing opportunity”, Bernhard, Chief Operating Officer of Kitsap Mental Health Services. officer, said.
“It fills me up.”
While not yet complete, Pendleton Place is now more than an idea – Kitsap County’s first permanent supportive housing facility has floors, walls and a roof. Contractors from Port Orchard-based BJC Group are completing the framing and preparing to begin drywall work on the 47,903 square foot apartment building.
“I’m so excited I can’t believe we’re actually here,” said Bernhard.
Bernhard and other representatives from Kitsap’s mental health services – who are leading the project – gathered on Wednesday afternoon to visit the $ 21.6 million facility to a dozen local officials, including the Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler, 26th District Senator Emily Randall and Representative Michelle. Caldier, and County Commissioners Rob Gelder and Ed Wolfe.
What started as an idea to provide affordable housing to Kitsap County’s most vulnerable residents is nearing completion. Kitsap Mental Health Services received full funding for the project last summer, and construction began in the fall. Bernhard hopes to be able to start moving into tenants in March 2022.
Funding for the project came from the Bremerton Housing Authority, the county’s 1 / 10th of 1% processing tax, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a grant from the state legislature, appropriations from federal tax for low income and other sources. Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler said he was “very proud of this partnership and the way it was formed”.
“(Pendleton Place) will be of huge benefit to our citizens who are trying to get out of addiction and other challenges,” Wheeler said.
Patty Lent, Chair of the Kitsap Mental Health Board of Directors, said the project has been “like a dream, an idea” so far. The facility will follow the Housing First model – meaning that people who are chronically homeless and struggling with mental health and addiction issues stay in housing before working on those issues.
“(Pendleton Place is) the first thing that’s really going to make a difference, 72 people are going to have a different lifestyle and we’re not just going to take them and run them,” Lent said.
Permanent housing for the most vulnerable
Pendleton Place, located just west of Highway 3 on Kitsap Way, will provide permanent housing for homeless people struggling with mental illness and addiction. The goal is to house the “most vulnerable” residents in Kitsap while providing 24-hour support services.
The 72-unit building will include 36 one-bedroom apartments and 36 studios, each between 335 and 450 square feet. All accommodation has a small kitchenette, bathroom and intercom. The facility will have two “respite rooms” for residents experiencing illness or crisis, a common area that overlooks Highway 3 and Oyster Bay, a small network of trails with a dog park and a computer lab.
Contractors blocked timber orders in January before timber prices soared. Overall, the project was on time and on budget, allowing Kitsap Mental Health Services to use emergency funds to add solar panels and a commercial kitchen to the facility, Bernhard said.
“If community groups want to come and cook a meal for the people who live here, they will have the opportunity to do so,” said Bernhard.
Permanent supportive housing is not a shelter, hospital or mental health care facility, Bernhard said. Residents will sign a lease and be responsible for paying their rent on time, just like in any apartment complex. The difference is that Pendleton Place will be staffed 24/7 with case managers who can help residents with mental health or addiction issues.
“We’re going to have people who are going to see where someone is in trouble, we’re going to be able to see and engage that person before there is a breakdown,” said Bernhard.
Kitsap Mental Health Services is in the process of identifying Kitsap County residents who qualify to live in Pendleton Place. The association reviews lists of people who have applied for housing through the Housing Solutions Center and who have identified themselves as chronically homeless and have mental health needs. Bernhard contacted the Kitsap Rescue Mission, Scarlet Road, Kitsap NAACP and other social service agencies in the county.
“We also want to make sure that there is diversity, so that the people who live reflect the diversity of the homeless population as a whole,” said Bernhard.
Kitsap Mental Health Services will compile a list of eligible people on the first of every month by November and contact them to see if they are interested. Staff will walk through homeless settlements to connect with people who are not currently part of the system.
The Bremerton Housing Authority has provided 56 low-income housing vouchers tied to Pendleton Place, meaning they do not expire once a resident decides to move. Once the final list is submitted to the Bremerton Housing Authority, staff will go through it and help residents finalize the paperwork they need to get a voucher. Once approved, there is no limit to the length of stay for a resident.
“You want to encourage staying in housing here because that’s what chronically homeless people often lack,” Bernhard said.