Recently, Compass Housing Alliance and partners of King County’s Health Through Housing Initiative gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Don’s Place. The program operates in a converted hotel in Auburn, serving individuals dealing with a disability who are coming directly from chronic homelessness. The emergency housing program with wraparound services supports 91 program participants in 80 units with referral preference given to Veterans and seniors.  

The room was full of positivity, curiosity, and a spirit of collaboration at this grand opening event. As Compass’s president, Michael Bailey, said from the podium, “Through our collaboration, we have provided a beacon of 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.”

As Compass fills the remaining open units in the near future, we celebrate the beautiful opportunity that people experiencing homelessness are receiving to turn the page to a new chapter in their lives. We can’t do this work without partners like King County’s Health Through Housing initiative, the City of Auburn, our referral partners, and last but not least, Compass’s staff and supporters!  

“Health Through Housing is one of the most impactful and sustainable tools we have to reduce homelessness throughout King County. It allows us to reverse the trauma that our neighbors face, overcome systemic challenges, and prevail over the challenges with living outside,” said Simon Foster, Director for DCHS’ Housing, Homelessness, and Community Development Division. “Don’s Place is an example of what’s possible when we work together across all levels of government, sectors, and agencies. Together, we can meet the diverse housing needs of communities, address housing inequities, and help transform lives.” 

A Don’s Place program participant named Samantha, shared, “After being on the streets for a few years, I am grateful to get into Don’s Place. Especially with a disability, I love being able to sleep in and take a shower almost every day. Those things are important to me; I didn’t always have them. The staff here are really sweet and caring too. They don’t look down on me, they get to know me, and they know I’m not a bad person.”

Don’s Place is named in honor of Donald Gene Castro, better known as “Old Man Don” by the local Auburn community. He was a Vietnam Veteran who lost his housing and experienced homelessness in his later years. Though he was experiencing the traumatic effects of homelessness himself, Don was known for helping everyone on the street in whatever way he could.

He saved socks and clothing, making deliveries to those in need. Those who knew him described him as interesting, fun, upbeat, and genuinely caring. One community member shared, “There wasn’t anyone on the street who didn’t know him and love him.” Don lived from 1942 to 2020. For his service in the army, he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and received a full military burial at Tahoma National Cemetery in April 2021. 

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, who knew Don personally, said that this place will carry on his spirit of service and dedication to his community. “This place makes my heart happy,” she said. “Don’s Place is the perfect example of what can happen when multiple local, regional, and state agencies work together to solve homelessness. People experiencing homelessness in Auburn won’t have to move out of their community when they find housing. They will be able to continue to call Auburn ‘Home.’ Don would have loved to live here.” 

Governor Jay Inslee spoke passionately about the need to continue to provide affordable housing and pointed to Don’s Place as a blueprint for local community leaders to follow. He then surprised us all and called up Robelia White, a Compass case manager, to the podium and named her as Washingtonian of the Day!

“The honor of being honored is an incredible feeling like no other,” Robelia said. “My purpose in life has always been to encourage a positive change in the people I meet. Whatever I do, I do it with love, compassion, understanding, and patience. This is how I honor my mom, whom I’m named after. And this is how we serve and support one another here, at Don’s Place.” 

The impact of Don’s Place is already being felt by the people in the program. David, a program participant, shared that after his overdose, he didn’t want to keep living like he was out on the street. “I realized that I didn’t want to die. God told me I was not ready,” he said. “I was won over and put at ease at Don’s Place, and I feel like I have a home for the first time in my life. People are given accountability but also are allowed to be who they are.” 

Share This Page with Family and Friends