Auburn Food Bank Director Debbie Christian has held on with a bulldog grip to the vision, and, through two city administrations, multiple turnovers of council members and some heartbreaks, she refused to let go.
Her dream? To create a single place in Auburn. a resource center, where disadvantaged people can access the community, social and human services they need without having to bounce from site to site.
That is also a long cherished dream of the city of Auburn.
When the city signed a lease for the empty Sports Page tavern at 2802 Auburn Way North and adjoining office spaces earlier this year, businesses and agencies were linin up to be part of it, and the transformation to a resource center seemed just over the horizon.
Then COVID-19 rolled in. Some of the potential partners went under as businesses shut down under Gov. Jay Inslee’s edict. Others pulled out.
So, is that the end? No way, no how, said Christian.
“It’s still a go,” said Christian. “Things are opening up again, and we’re trying to get moving, but prior to a month ago, it was at a big standstill.”
Plans call for the Auburn Food Bank to move from its present pad in the Burndale apartment complex on I Street into the tavern space. Christian said she could not offer a construction timeline, but she noted that this will not be a build-from-scratch project.
“People are more comfortable coming out now and looking at the property and giving us bids for work or being interested in bringing their business into the Auburn Community Resources part of it,” she added.
As for the future home of the food bank, Christian said, it will be a matter up putting up walls, yanking out the old bar, pulling up the carpeting and getting the electricity going.
As for the city and its plans for the resource center, a strong selling point was the site’s proximity to DSHS, WorkSource, Sound Mental Health, We Care Day Clinic and Valley Cities, not to mention the Metro bus stop at the site. The city’s plans call for making use of adjacent office space and:
■ Relocating the day center on I Street NE;
■ Moving the night shelter and bumping up its capacity from 30 beds to approximately 65 beds, with the added benefit of further expanding during bad weather;
■ Providing a space for King County to fulfill its goal of establishing a once-a-week Community Court in Auburn;
■ Providing space for 20 or more service providers to be present and available when court is in session — that is, addiction resources, housing placement, mental health providers, employment services and more.
And when court is not in session, provide classroom, educational and meeting spaces and room for service providers to have temporary space on a regularly recurring schedule;
■ Providing a space for emergency food services and to enhance opportunities to make healthier food options more available; and
■ Providing ongoing space to a handful of community, social and/or human service providers that advances the mission of the hub and the individuals and families that rely upon those services.
The Auburn City Council approved $500,000 a year for the 23,000-square-foot project in its current biennial budget in 2019, and spent just under $120,000 of that budget in 2019. Other sources of funding will be sought via tenant rent, other public funding sources, philanthropy and private funding.