Putnam Place, also known as Roselawn Manor, Inc., will soon be available for residents to move in.  Putnam Place, located on 37th St. in Orange, next to the old Salk Elementary, is the first of its kind in Southeast Texas that will provide housing for those who suffer from chronic mental illnesses such as: depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, anxiety, etc.

Putnam Place was carefully designed to meet the needs of residents that are 18 years and older, without children and are looking for a safe and affordable place to live. Residents at Putnam place must provide written proof from their doctor stating they have a chronic mental illness. Residents may also be married but they must fall within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income guidelines.

The people who will reside in Putnam Place will be those who can function in their everyday lives with a small amount of help and pose no threat to society. They have been and will continued to be carefully screened by a very experienced management company that was hired by the Roselawn Board of Directors. Requirements for applicants are: no history of violence, no drug or alcohol addiction and no previous evictions.

The idea for Putnam Place started with a group of mothers whose children suffered from mental illnesses. They were all part of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).  “We just got together one day and decided that we needed to build a residential facility for our children,” said Juliet Smith, president of the Roselawn Manor Board of Directors. “We needed something that was affordable and nice.”

There are only two original members left in the group.  The late Mrs. Pat Putnam was the leading lady that spearheaded the pre-construction work.  “She never gave up in-spite of all of the difficulties,” Smith said.  “Pat Putnam was an incredible individual.  She was the most wonderful lady.” The Roselawn Manor Board of Directors decided to name the facility after Mrs. Putnam in honor of all of her hard work and dedication.

Planned Living Assistance Network (PLAN) of Southeast Texas is the sponsor for Putnam Place. PLAN owns and operates the Thrift and Gift Shop, which was started by Mrs. Putnam. The Thrift and Gift shop was originally downtown, but they sold the building to The Stark Foundation.  PLAN then bid on, and won, the old Salk Elementary school and the property it sits on.  PLAN gave 2.4 acres of land to Roselawn Manor, now known as Putnam Place, and the shop is now in the school building.

PLAN was created to provide the elderly and the disabled with programs and jobs with the Thrift and Gift. 

The original group of mothers didn’t know how to go about getting the funding for their idea. “We didn’t have any contacts and we failed at two different attempts,” Smith said.  The first was a tax credit and the other was a scam.  Smith said someone from California was hired to help them but they just took their money and was never heard from again. “But we heard about a really good consultant out of Louisiana who had done several of these [apartment complexes],” she said. “He came highly recommended.”

The gentleman helped the directors write a grant to HUD for $1 million.  The directors were in competition with Harris, Hardin and Jefferson counties and several more counties all the way to New Orleans.  Putnam Place received the grant right after Hurricane Rita swept through Southeast Texas.

The board had a difficult time getting this project underway. They were required to come up with the money for pre-construction costs and HUD would reimburse them. “Fortunately, The Stark Foundation loaned us some money for that and was a big help in getting us started,” Smith said. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas gave a grant to the directors for bricks and mortar. 

When construction was finally underway, it rained for weeks. After the rained stopped, the construction company started working the soil and found soft spots. These soft spots required correction before construction can continue and it costs the board even more money. Once that was fixed, the construction company found an underground fuel tank that no one knew about. Removal of the tank cost the board an additional $10,000.

Finally, after years of waiting, Juliet Smith finally received the keys to the facility on Thursday, Oct. 7.

Putnam Place is not an assisted living center, the tenants in this facility will have to be able to live independently. It features 19 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment for the resident manager. Two units are handicap accessible and one unit is accommodated for sight and/ or hearing impaired individuals. Each unit includes a living and dining room, a kitchen area, a bathroom with a linen closet  and one bedroom with closet space.

There is a separate building for the office, the community room and the laundry room. The community room will be available for tenants to get together and play games, chat and just have a good time.

Each resident will need to provide their own furniture and will be required to pay for water usage. Tenants are not required to have a job but they must be able to pay the cost of rent, which will be determined by HUD.

Strict rules and regulations concerning behavior and apartment living will be enforced.

“Those with a mental illness that have the proper treatment, proper support and proper housing can be good citizens who can hold jobs and be part of the community,” Smith said.

“We will encourage them to participate in a support group that is already in place, the Orange Mental Health Support Group,” she said. They meet every Monday afternoon at 1:30 in the Salk Elementary school building.

The facility currently has 12 residents waiting to move in and is taking applications to fill the remaining seven spots. Those interested in living at Putnam Place are asked to contact the manager, Lolita Casear, at 337-660-3358. The open house and ribbon cutting event for Putnam Place is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 9:30 a.m,

“We hope Port Arthur and Beaumont  will build some of these because there is a great need,” Smith said.

Gaudet & Tolson, Ltd. are the architects that designed this facility and they specialize in planning apartments for people with disabilities. G&G Enterprises of Orange is the building contractor.  The total cost of construction for Putnam Place so far is at $2.4 million. The building is financed through a capital advance from the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, the Stark Foundation and Orange Savings Bank helped obtain a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.  Many other individuals and organizations helped by contributions and gave the support needed to make Putnam Place a reality.

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers