Homelessness In Auburn: Addressing a Regional Issue Locally

Task Force on Homelessness

In November 2015, Mayor Nancy Backus convened a citizen task force to address homelessness in Auburn. This task force was comprised of community leaders, service providers, citizens, faith community, police and fire, school district, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, business owners and key city staff. The Task Force completed their work in April 2016 and presented a suggested action plan to the City Council on May 23, 2016. Learn more about the Task Force and the recommendations.

Town Hall: Homelessness

On May 13, 2021, Mayor Nancy Backus hosted a virtual townhall to discuss homelessness in Auburn and what is being done to address it.  The panel included Kent Hay, Auburn's Outreach Program Administrator, Debbie Christian from the Auburn Food Bank, Judge Matthew York from the King County Courts, and several City staff members. 

 A Complex Challenge

What we are seeing in Auburn is not unique. Across King County, Washington state, and nationally, we are seeing the sub-urbanization of poverty, as the poor are priced out of housing in urban centers. In Washington, decades of under-investment in mental health care, developmental disabilities services, and substance abuse treatment are translating into increasing homelessness. In King County, those systemic failures combined with an alarming increase in the cost of housing have further complicated an already complex challenge.

Key Highlights:

  • According to the 2020 All Home Count Us In point in time count held in January 2020, there are approximately 1,115 unsheltered homeless adults in southwest King County (area includes Algona, Auburn, Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Milton, Normandy Park, Pacific, Renton, SeaTac, Tukwila, Vashon Island, and unincorporated areas ). Up from 1,084in 2019.
  • The Auburn School District reports that there are about 300 homeless students in the district each year.
  • Auburn's homeless population has increased over 20% since 2014.
  • Seventy percent (70%) of King County's homeless are in Seattle, 20% is in southwest King County.
  • A total of 11,751 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in January 2020. Forty-seven percent (47%) of the population was unsheltered, living on the street, in parks, encampments, vehicles, or other places not meant for human habitation. (Learn more about homelessness in King County)

What does homelessness look like in Auburn?

In 2020, the City of Auburn hired a dedicated homeless outreach program administrator. The above numbers represent staff contacts with persons experiencing homelessness in Auburn since May 2020.

Homeless Children & Youth

Each year data is collected by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) on homeless children and youth enrolled and served by districts in Washington State. This is the data reported regarding children and youth served by Auburn School District.

Gender, Age, Race

Current data shows the majority of homeless persons in Auburn are white males between the age of 35-54 that have been homeless for more than a year.

How long?

Current data shows the majority of homeless persons contacted in Auburn have been homeless for a year or more. 

Getting help

The majority of homeless persons contacted in Auburn are actively accepting referrals for services and working towards a life out of homelessness.

In Their Shoes

Auburn's unsheltered residents share their stories and speak about the challenges of rising out of homelessness.

Providing Resources

Overnight Shelter

In 2017, the City of Auburn, in partnership with Valley Cities Mental Health, opened an overnight shelter. The Sundown overnight shelter is managed by The Auburn Food Bank and has capacity for about 60 persons to sleep safely sheltered. It is co-located with the Ray of Hope day resource center, the Auburn Community Resource Center and other services to assist persons in need.

Ray of Hope Resource Center

Part of the Tasks Force's Summary of Recommendations is to be able to provide available resources for the homeless, the community and public and nonprofit service providers. In 2017, Auburn opened the Ray of Hope Resource Center day shelter to connect those experiencing homelessness to resources to move them off the streets and into jobs, treatment and housing. 

Getting Help

There are many resources in Auburn to assist those in need. The map below shows the majority of agencies that are providing these much needed services. Click on each point locator for more information on each agency.

  The Geography of Homelessness

As different City Departments find encampment locations throughout the city, they use a mobile device to enter information about that camp so we are able to better track costs and locations. Using this tool we can also find hot spots throughout the City so we are able to identify areas to focus outreach and initiate cleanup. City staff spend approximately 100 hours a year identifying and cleaning encampment sites.


A look at some of the encampments found recently in Auburn and what is being done to move unsheltered persons living in unhealthy, unstable and dangerous situations into safer, healthier places.

In Their Voice: KUOW Tells the Story of Auburn Encampments

KUOW tells the story of Auburn's homeless encampments

KOMO: Auburn homeless expected to do chores to earn their keep 

Ray of Hope works!