In Lake City, Seattle, homeless veterans and others now have a place to call home
McDermott Place, an apartment building where 38 of the 75 units are reserved for previously homeless veterans, has opened in Lake City.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When George Bunting got out of jail, he had a disabling knee injury and mental illness — and nowhere to live.
But with the help of government programs and nonprofit groups, the Marine veteran now has a studio apartment and receives ongoing help for bipolar disorder, anger management and alcoholism.
Bunting, 41, last month moved into McDermott Place, a new Lake City apartment building where 38 of the 75 units are reserved for previously homeless veterans.
Open since December, the building also gives preference to others who have been living on the streets of Lake City and to those with serious mental problems.
The six-story, $16 million building a block south of Fred Meyer is named after U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott and operated by the Low Income Housing Institute. Funding came from city, county, state and federal sources, Key Bank and other banks, tax credits, Seattle Housing Authority and United Way of King County.
North Helpline last month moved the Lake City Food Bank and its emergency-services office to the building from cramped quarters in a nearby fire station.
In addition, two Sound Mental Health case managers work full-time at McDermott Place and a weekly RotaCare clinic is being set up with volunteer doctors and nurses.
Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, said it is "tragic" that many vets are living — and sometimes dying — on our streets.
"A lot of veterans fought our wars and they come back here and fight a different type of enemy. That could be drugs, alcohol, depression, mental illness," Lee said. "We want to make sure homeless veterans are not sleeping on the streets and are not sleeping under bridges, in their cars."
So many veterans and others live in cars or camp out in Lake City that the Seattle community has its own task force on homelessness.
John, a Vietnam veteran who lived on the streets of Lake City for 15 years, six of them sleeping on a bench behind a tavern, also now calls McDermott Place home. A North Seattle native, he spoke on condition that his last name not be used. His glasses are held together by tape, and the tips of several fingers are missing. His legs are disfigured by a scleroderma he attributes to Agent Orange, and he walks with difficulty.
It's scary, he said, to move into his own apartment, and he hopes he will find the same camaraderie he had with other street people. "The thing is to have people become a family here and not 75 individuals," John said. "It's important that people watch out for each other."
Before moving into McDermott Place, John and two street buddies lived for 17 months in a tiny house provided by Seattle Mennonite Church. One of his housemates died last August when he jumped from the 12th Avenue South Bridge.
For many of the 55 homeless people who visit the church's drop-in center each day, McDermott Place "is just huge — housing in the neighborhood they love and in the neighborhood they call home," said Jonathan Neufeld at Seattle Mennonite.
Bunting, whose four years of military service are memorialized by a Marine Corps tattoo on one arm, burned through two marriages and jobs as a long-haul truck driver and a warehouse worker as his drinking and depression worsened.
After being arrested for driving under the influence and other offenses, he went to jail for domestic violence. The day he was released, the King County Veterans' Program arranged emergency housing for him. He receives medical and mental-health care from the VA.
When he moved into McDermott Place, his apartment was fully furnished with a bed, table, chairs, refrigerator, kitchen range, bathroom and — thanks to the Lake City Task Force on Homelessness — a basket with toiletries, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies and food.
With the help of counseling and medications for bipolar disorder, Bunting said, "I'm not getting into a depressive state where I want to kill myself."
"I'm still getting used to the fact of me being in my own spot, not under everybody's eyes. So far, I'm loving it."
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
Furniture & home furnishings
POST A FREE LISTING