She was perturbed, grumbling.
“I hate this place,” the woman, 85, told Auburn Food Bank Director Debbie Christian, directing her ire at the Ray of Hope and Sundown homeless shelters on I Street Northeast.
Challenged to find her cloud’s silver lining, the woman reflected — and then pronounced the shelters the best possible thing, as they were giving her and her homeless son breathing space so they could save up to get their own place.
“I hope they hate it,” Christian told the Auburn City Council Monday of that woman and other homeless people taking advantage of those shelters by day and night.
“I don’t want them to love living there. I want them to accept where they are, and then figure how to get out of it, by everything that we can apply to whatever’s going on in their lives. I hope they hate it, so they will work hard to get out of it,” said Christian, who oversees the day shelter and the night shelter, the latter at Valley Cities.
Christian said the average daily population at the Ray of Hope, which is open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., daily, is about 60. There are 40 beds at the Sundown, which is open from 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.
During King County’s January homeless count, Christian said, the tally in Auburn was at least 157, most of whom, she said, were staying in cars in the Outlet Collection Mall area.
Unfortunately, the number was up from the previous January, Christian said, and is likely to be higher when the county releases its own count in June, as Auburn’s doesn’t include the homeless people who were passing the night on buses driving about Auburn, waiting in a hospital for care, or elsewhere.
“It’s a higher count than we’ve ever had. I don’t know what to attribute that to. Every year it’s hard to follow that,” Christian said.
Not so long ago, Christian said, Nathan —no last name given — was also among the homeless. He’d lost his housing to a development, a terrible event that happened to coincide with the end of his seasonal work.
But Nathan took advantage of what the city provided, worked his tail off to land a job,and got himself off the street. Today, he has his own place, and is happily, proudly employed in another part of King County, Christian said.
In the years and months that have passed since the Ray of Hope and the Sundown shelters opened, Christian said, the success stories have easily outstripped the downers and continue to do so.
“Every day, somebody is talking about getting work, or about just getting up and doing something more for themselves. The fact that they are learning, that they are gaining some respect for themselves, that they are gaining some ability to feel confident again to feel like they can get out and get a job, that has been very rewarding,” Christian said.