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King County & Compass Housing Alliance celebrate grand opening of Health Through Housing’s Don’s Place in Auburn

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On Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, officials celebrated the grand opening of Don’s Place, a Health Through Housing building in Auburn that provides 81 units of supportive housing for people exiting chronic homelessness, including veterans and seniors.

Compass Housing Alliance, a longtime provider of supportive housing and services for people experiencing homelessness, operates Don’s Place in partnership with the City of Auburn.

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In addition to highlighting the partnerships involved in establishing and operating Don’s Place, the celebration featured the unveiling of the building’s newly renovated second and third floors. After a soft opening in December 2022, over 50 new people are expected to move into the upper floors, joining the 28 residents currently living at Don’s Place – a mix of individual residents, adult couples, and self-identified domestic partners.

The grand opening also honored the namesake of Don’s Place, Donald Gene Castro, better known as ‘Old Man Don,’ by the local Auburn community. Known for helping everyone living outside in whatever way he could, Don also experienced the trauma of living outside. When Don passed in 2021, he received a full military burial at Tahoma National Cemetery.

“Every community is impacted by homelessness, and every community can help make initiatives like Health Through Housing successful. As with all our locations, Don’s Place comprehensively meets the diverse housing needs of our neighbors exiting chronic homelessness with dignity and compassion,” Constantine said. “Our inclusive, multifaceted approach is a great example of the collaboration needed between local government, service providers, and communities to reduce homelessness. With growing income inequality, eviction cases on the rise, and an urgent need for more affordable housing, we must do all that we can to eliminate barriers to housing, including supportive housing.”

According to projections by the Washington State Department of Commerce, nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing will be needed by 2044 on top of the county’s existing housing stock. Of the additional affordable housing units needed, 43,000 units are permanent supportive housing. Further, based on data compiled by King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), eviction filings have risen sharply in recent months. In October 2023, King County recorded over 600 eviction filings – the highest number of eviction filings in any month that DCHS has data for, ranging back to the start of 2015.

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“Alone, the state won’t solve homelessness. Cities and counties won’t. Nonprofits won’t. But together, we have a shot,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “We’re partners in this. And for our part, the state has mustered record investments in housing to open doors to Washingtonians. We ‘went big’ on housing last year, and now more units are going up.”

“At Compass Housing Alliance, we believe in the power of providing more than just shelter; we strive to offer a path to stability and hope. With the support of government partners, community organizations, and the unwavering spirit of our neighbors, both housed and unhoused, we have been able to offer the community something far more valuable than just a building,” said Michael Bailey, Compass Housing Alliance President. “Through our collaboration, we have provided a beacon of hope. As we work to fill all 81 units here at Don’s Place, we hope this project can serve as a living testament to what we can achieve for others when we partner together.”

Like all other Health Through Housing residences, Don’s Place will offer 24/7 building staff and support services that include food security, daily meals, case management support, and behavioral health services tailored to individual needs. With this latest opening, Health Through Housing has permanently secured 1,273 units for supportive housing – continuing progress toward the initiative’s goal to open 1,600 units for people experiencing chronic homelessness in King County.  As of June 2023, 543 people are living in Health Through Housing buildings, and since the opening of the initiative’s first building in 2021, 95% of residents have stayed in their housing or moved into permanent housing elsewhere.

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“I was won over and put at ease at Don’s Place. I have a home for the first time in my life; it’s mine, no time limit and no fee,” said David, a Don’s Place resident. “Don’s Place offers a safe place that lives up to the term coordinated care. It is safe housing; it gives you a place to grow into the person you want to be.”

“Don’s Place is the perfect example of what can happen when multiple local, regional, and state agencies work together to solve homelessness,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “The City of Auburn has long held the belief that working with unhoused individuals to prepare them for housing and stability is imperative for their success. Our beloved Don Castro was known and appreciated by many in Auburn for his work in the community, and it is most appropriate that we are here today to celebrate the opening of Don’s Place. This is a milestone in the work and the promise to fight homelessness.”

Launched by Executive Constantine in 2021, the Health Through Housing initiative is King County’s long-term commitment to accelerate the region’s response to chronic homelessness through the use of repurposed hotels and other existing buildings. Don’s Place is one of three Health Through Housing locations in South King County. Sidney Wilson House in the City of Renton opened in 2021 and Health Through Housing’s Federal Way building is expected to open later this year. In total, 15 apartment buildings across six cities in King County have been established in partnership with the initiative – 11 of which are owned by King County, and four by the City of Seattle.

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