Robert Bloom’s Long Journey Home to McDermott Place

Robert Bloom’s road to Sound, and to recovery from addiction and depression, was a long one.  Sometimes it takes consistent, effective support over many years for someone to find their way. And Bloom found his way — but he had his share of struggles to get there.

The Eastern Washington native recalls, “I was brought up in a well-to-do home, I had everything I wanted. But I just wanted to party. After high school I had a golf scholarship. I turned it down to go to a party school with my friends.”

While his struggles with substance use began early, Bloom’s use continued after his marriage and move to Seattle.

“I was playing hide-and-seek,” he ruefully recalls. “But she knew everything.”

He lost it all: his marriage and family, his job as a building engineer, and his middle-class home.

After his life fell apart, Bloom spiraled deeper into alcohol, gambling, and other addictions. He eventually ended up in a homeless shelter in Seattle’s Pioneer Square and then to a behavioral health organization that provided a temporary home and mental health services. There, it took electroconvulsive therapy to break through his deep depression, but it made a difference and his condition improved.

After his stay there, and much more stable, Bloom was referred for housing at Sound’s McDermott Place, in Lake City in 2012. The facility, named in honor of Washington state congressman Jim McDermott, who advocated for affordable housing, provides apartments for homeless individuals. McDermott Place offers “enriched housing” to help residents obtain the services they need and maintain a stable residence. Additionally, it offers opportunities for residents to access education and employment services. Sound provides on-site  services around the clock to residents like Robert Bloom.

His Sound caseworker for three years, John Mack, points out that the public’s perception is that once a homeless person is housed, “the story is over.”

“In fact,” Mack says, “that’s just the beginning,” adding that it takes a year or more for someone who has experienced homelessness, addiction, or mental health issues to adjust to having a roof over their head and transition to new behaviors.

When he came to McDermott Place, despite the array of opportunities for recovery, Robert Bloom was still “trying to keep my addictions alive.”

But, and it wasn’t until three years later, Robert emerged into a new outlook on life and wanted to get clean and sober. He was done with drugs, with alcohol and with that whole life.

“You know when you’re done. It was midnight, the day before my birthday. I put everything I had in a bag and took it down to the desk and said, ‘I want help.’” Sound’s round-the-clock staffing made the difference. Bloom spent 60 days at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland in a detoxification program, and then went to inpatient treatment in Spokane.

Back at McDermott Place, “A counselor named Laura became a big part of my life,” he says. Despite the fact that drug dealers can still knock on his door, and old friends urge him to “come out and party,” Bloom has maintained his sobriety for almost three years. “I can be a little tough on him sometimes,” says caseworker Mack. “I’ll say ‘Maybe it’s time for a meeting,’ but I admire Robert.”

With John Mack’s open-door policy, a stable home, and ongoing on-site support from Sound, Bloom has become supportive of others who want to cut down or quit their substance use. He credits Sound with enabling him to reconnect with his son, and to re-establish a connection with his ex-wife. Today, Robert Bloom smiles, “I’m a boring guy, but I’m happy.”

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