Auburn hotel the fifth bought by King County to house chronically homeless people

AUBURN, Wash. — King County and the city of Auburn on Wednesday announced another step in the region’s fight to house homeless people.

The county has purchased the former Clarion Inn in Auburn.

The hotel is the fifth to be purchased in the Puget Sound region as part of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Health Through Housing initiative to house people chronically without homes while providing case management, job counseling and health services.

The hotel, which was bought for $11.8 million, will soon provide housing for up to 102 people.

The goal of the Health Through Housing program is to house 1,600 homeless people over this year and the next through the purchase of hotels, motels and other single-room settings for use as emergency, transitional and permanent housing.

Constantine said that with traditional shelters, people are sent back out to the street first thing in the morning after sleeping in close quarters with others. While those shelters work on a short-term basis, they don’t address future needs.

When the pandemic hit, the cramped sleeping arrangements at such shelters provided conditions for the virus to spread. With travel and tourism at a standstill, there was plenty of hotel space to lease, allowing the county to move people out of busy shelters and into rooms of their own.

“We found that when we gave people a home — a place of their own, with all the safety and peace of mind that comes with that — not only did they stay safe from the virus, they thrived. That rest, that ability to take a breath, collect your thoughts, get a good night’s sleep, was transformative,” Constantine said in his 2021 State of the County address.

Having a place to stay can help people address mental and physical health problems, eat regularly, practice good hygiene and provide the needed stability to allow people to focus on long-term goals such as getting a job and finding a place of their own, Constantine said.