by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 10 August 2016
On the outside, Patrick Place Apartments resembles every other multi-residential structure around our neighborhood. This 71-unit building provides housing for adults who go to work, school and play, just like the others in Fremont.
Patrick Place is also a place where people who might otherwise be living on the streets can find a home. Patrick Place, a Catholic Housing Services property, provides a home, and for those who want it, support, assistance and guidance when they are ready for more than a permanent roof over their heads.
A High-Functioning Population
Patrick Place provides small one-bedroom or studio apartments, for rent to people who apply through local, non-profit, social service agencies. Built in 2013, and opened in January 2014, those who live here have histories of chronic homelessness and/or frequent, long-term stays in homeless shelters. Here they find more than transitional or temporary housing as residents can stay as long as they like, and need. They can stay for life, although some residents have already found permanent work and chosen to move on to their own housing.
Virginia ‘Ginny’ Lord, a Certified Peer Counselor and member of the CReW Program (Counseling, Recovery and Wellness) for Catholic Community Services (CCS,) has worked at Patrick Place and other CCS facilities. She explained, “with any CCS building, it takes a while for the residents to trust and reach out.” According to her, only about 10% of residents at any time ever attend meetings, and get involved.
“We are a ‘harm reduction’ building,” Lord explained. This means that “we don’t care about what people do in their units,” Lord said. Residents can live their lives chemically dependent, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others in the building.
Yet, this may not be why these residents chose not to participate. “The residents at Patrick Place are higher functioning than at other Catholic Community Services buildings,” Lord observed. She suggested that the independence, and ability to fend for themselves, developed by these residents in order to survive on the streets, might make Patrick Place residents so high functioning. Patrick Place resident Dennis Bateman thought that sounded right. “That is exactly why,” he said. “We don’t need anyone else. It makes it harder. It does.” Having learned to be tough, independent and self-reliant enough to survive without a place to live, for decades, Bateman acknowledged that it makes it harder to ask for help now.
Setting Goals & Finding Solutions
Still, Lord gave one of the residents for starting The Solutions Group. According to Lord, a substance abuse counselor suggested that the resident attend a recovery group, and that resident asked Lord to help organize one among the neighbors of Patrick Place. “That’s how the idea started,” Lord said.
Lord credits the residents who attended The Solutions Group for growing it beyond basic recovery. Patrick Place residents chose the rules and mission for The Solutions Group. Rather than ban all drug and chemical use, the group set rules about respecting each other, being present (no texting or Facebook surfing,) and no intoxication during meetings.
At the meetings, “I talked to people about what their goals were,” Lord explained, “and they had a hard time identifying any goals.” Lord explained that for its members, the Group has been about “recovering from our own baggage.” As members identified goals, starting small, they were encouraged to meet them, yet, “we don’t judge,” Lord explained.
“Sometimes it takes 50 tries,” Lord said, about completing a goal. Some goals that sound simple aren’t, and ones that may seem grandiose can be easier than expected. “Sometimes life happens a minute at a time; a day at a time,” Lord observed, “we have to recognize that patterns are very hard to break.”
For instance, making a doctors’ appointment isn’t always just about making an appointment, but also about admitting there is a problem, trusting the doctor to be respectful, and/or trusting that treatment will help. Residents at Patrick Place can find themselves caught in pattern behavior, and The Solutions Group can reveal how, “what we’ve been doing isn’t working,” Lord observed.
“The accountability,” Bateman agreed, about what he’s gotten from the Solutions Group. “All I really do is facilitate,” Lord acknowledged. Among themselves, residents have built their support networks, and reputations for results. “They rely on each other for support,” Lord observed, “I think that has been huge.”
Personal Solutions, & Community Activities
This year, The Solutions Group took Bateman beyond his own personal goals and into community activism. Last June, Fremonsters were invited to a community-wide clean-up, begun and ended at Patrick Place. Unlike a similar clean-up held last year, Bateman organized this one, and his Patrick Place neighbors did most of the trash collecting.
Through The Solutions Group, when residents met a personal goal, they would look forward to setting, and accomplishing, another. “Pretty soon we were doing big things,” Bateman said, “We got a lot of support, to start small and simple.” Yet, as he completed one task, Bateman said, “I thought, ‘maybe I could do something else.’”
Bateman acknowledged that he came to Patrick Place as a user, and it led him to make poor choices. When he decided to do different things – meet goals, find work, make art and get engaged with his community – chemical dependency got in the way. According to Bateman, once he had ideas of goals he wanted to accomplish, and found ways to get there, the drugs became an obstacle rather than a recreation.
The community clean-up, “was a goal set in the group,” Bateman explained. He chose to give back to this community, in part because of the way he and other residents have felt included in it. “It’s like ‘Leave It To Beaver’,” he said of living in Upper Fremont, “kids laughing and playing, and people say ‘hi’ to you. This is a nice neighborhood.”
For Bateman, attending meetings of the Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC) and talking to area business people about donating to the clean-up prize giveaway, has been about his own personal growth, and pushing himself past his limits. “Everything I do is new,” he explained, and he looks forward to seeing how he can move forward, into a future in Fremont, and beyond.
For August, Bateman is working on restoring and re-dedicating an art bench in Upper Fremont, installed by the FNC, and built in honor of Fremont resident activist Helen Tapp. To volunteer to help his effort, and get more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Fremont’s people make it what it is, and what it will become. The Patrick Place Solutions Group members may be working on their own lives, but it could be the best thing to happen at the Center of the Universe this summer!
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©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.