Another roof for the homeless, this time in Auburn

A former hotel in Auburn is providing supportive housing for people exiting chronic homelessness, including veterans and seniors.

Don’s Place, so-named for a former homeless veteran in Auburn, is operated by Compass Housing Alliance in partnership with the city. After a soft opening in December 2022 with 28 residents, a total of about 78 individuals, couples, and domestic partners were expected to be housed early this year after an official opening in January.

The building is the former Clarion Inn hotel, one of five similar properties purchased by King County to accommodate at-risk or chronically homeless.

Compass Housing, a Seattle-based provider of supportive housing and services for people experiencing homelessness, works with government and community organizations to offer “something far more valuable than just a building,” said Michael Bailey, Compass’ president. “Through our collaboration, we have provided a beacon of hope. As we work to fill all 81 units 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.” 

David, a Don’s Place resident, said he has “a home for the first time in my life. It’s mine, no time limit and no fee. It gives you a place to grow into the person you want to be.”

Similar projects are located in Federal Way, Kirkland, Redmond, Renton, and Seattle, for a total of 1,273 housing units. All are funded through King County’s sales tax, as authorized by the County Council and the Legislature.

THE DON OF DON’S PLACE

The namesake of Don’s Place is the late Donald Gene Castro, better known as “Old Man Don” in the Auburn community. While being homeless himself in his later years after he could no longer work as a truck driver, he helped others in similar straits by collecting and delivering clothing for them. He was well-known and loved by virtually everyone “on the street,” said officials at Compass Housing Alliance. Castro, a Vietnam War veteran, was 78 when he died in 2020. He received a full military burial at Tahoma National Cemetery in 2021.

Downtown Tacoma library closed for makeover

The main downtown branch of Tacoma Public Library is closed while it’s being upgraded to improve safety, accessibility, and efficiency for the public.

Upgrades are underway for the building attached to the Carnegie building, last remodeled in 1990); the Olympic and other meeting rooms; and the Handforth Gallery in the original 1903 Carnegie Library. Among the changes is a transformation of the second floor into programming space for non-profit organizations.

Work began in September and is scheduled to be done in time for a reopening this spring.

Officials said the project is addressing concerns such as a lack of parking and safety concerns for library visitors. The work is being paid for through a combination of city of Tacoma, state and federal sources.

Tacoma Public Library has five other branches.

Schools, minimum wage on some ballots

A special election Feb. 13 will have voters in school districts in Pierce and King counties and deciding school funding measures and a minimum-wage proposal in one King County city.

The school districts in Pierce County include Clover Park, Puyallup, Tacoma, Sumner-Bonney Lake, Eatonville, Auburn, Carbonado, Orting, and Yelm.

The county elections department mailed ballots to voters Jan. 26.  Feb. 13 is the date when voters must submit their ballots by mail or in official dropboxes. Dropbox locations and other election-related information, including specifics about the ballot measures, is available at piercecountyelections.org and (253) 798-7430.

In King County, ballots and voters’ pamphlets were mailed Jan. 24 to voters in the Auburn, Tahoma, Tukwila, and Vashon Island school districts, and to voters in Renton, which has an initiative that would create a minimum wage for jobs in the city. More information is available from the county’s elections department at kingcounty.gov and 206-296-8683.

Orting Senior Center is trying to raise money to fill a large whole in its budget after losing government funding.

Pierce County officials in 2023 didn’t award a grant that in past years has covered the center’s operational costs such as utilities and staff. Some of that has been replaced county funding for the center’s role as a mealsite, but more is needed “to keep our operations going,” said Staci Guirsch, the center’s director.

An online drive through gofundme.com has a goal of raising $125,000, according to Guirsch.

In an online post, Guirsch thanked “everyone who has donated and shared our story. The support given for the seniors in Orting is amazing. We couldn’t do what we do without you.”