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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 3, 2009 at 4:00 PM

A home for alcoholics

Housing a prime ingredient for recovery

Thanks to Jerry Large for his fine column on the ongoing success of the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s (DESC) 1811 Eastlake project, which provides housing to hard-core alcoholics [“No place like home for alcoholics,” NW Thursday, April 2].

The program has proved successful in many ways. I have been a social worker in Seattle’s downtown for more than 30 years. As a co-founder of the Pike Market Medical Clinic and DESC, I have repeatedly observed the critical role that affordable and accessible housing plays in the lives of all indigent individuals.

For many who struggle with alcoholism, other addictions, mental illness or a combination of these afflictions, housing is a prime ingredient in any plan for recovery and ongoing treatment. While numerous residents at the Eastlake project continue to drink, it is not surprising that ER visits and incarcerations are significantly reduced. And even the overall amount of alcohol consumed by residents seems to be less.

These factors surely bolster the argument many low-income housing advocates and human-service providers have made for decades: Housing is indispensable to everyone’s health and well-being.

For those grappling with addictions, a home base makes any self-motivated effort to reform and embrace recovery a much more likely prospect. Life on perilous streets only enhances the misery and confusion that overwhelm so many whose lives are already devastated by alcohol, drugs or profound psychological problems.

The Eastlake project deserves applause and should serve as a model for future endeavors to assist those caught in the deleterious throes of addiction.

— Joe Martin, Seattle

Lost your home? Start drinking

Seattle is saving money by putting homeless alcoholics into apartments. Maybe we should take this good news a step further.

A lot of people are losing their homes right now. What they should do when they lose a home is move onto the street and start drinking. This will give liquor stores more business and increase tax revenues, and the state will then be able to build more apartments to put more drunks in.

This is a perfect circle when you think about it. The cash-strapped government already plans to open more liquor stores and extend their hours. This will allow the homeless to drink on a more convenient schedule and feel good about contributing to the tax base. It can be a wrenching experience to lose your home, but drinking in the street until you qualify for a new residence can be a positive way to deal with adversity.

Critics of this plan will claim that it promotes alcoholism. But the city has already proven that people will cut down on their drinking once they’ve obtained an apartment. Besides, it seems like a small price to pay for solving the foreclosure crisis.

— David Billings, Alger

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