Auburn homeless expected to do chores to earn their keep

Auburn asks homeless shelter residents to do chores in exchange for a place to stay (KOMO News)

AUBURN, Wash. -- The City of Auburn is trying something new to fight the homeless problem, something it said pays off for both the city and the homeless.

Here, the people who receive aid are expected to give back -- not money, but time and effort to improve the community.

D.J. Baker and Tina Canniff spend much their time cleaning up the homeless camp.

"We know this part of the river is really bad," said Tina, "I just hope i don't find any - ahh, ahh.'

Feces - a big pile of it.

Diane groans but cleans it up. It's hard and often disgusting work.

"It usually doesn't get to be like this, but that was really bad," said Diane.

It's work they don't mind doing. "Some of us actually like to do something to give back," Baker said.

Debbie Christian runs the 'Ray of Hope Resource Center' and the Sundown Shelter, the city's only overnight shelter.

Space is limited to only 40 beds, so it runs full. But to stay and get three meals a day - you are expected to give back.

"It's a low barrier to arrive; it's a high barrier to be able to stay here," said Christian.

Because in Auburn, everyone is being held accountable, even those who are being served, by keeping the shelter neat and clean, and picking up trash by the river.

"The more entitlement you have, the more attitude you have, so brush it off," said Christian.

"We need to expect more from people," said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus.

It's a tough love approach the mayor supports.

"Not everybody is going to like that approach, but I believe the people of Auburn appreciate that approach," said Backus.

Diane added: "And this way the city doesn't have to come down and do the job."

Auburn will spend $400,000 on its homeless programs this year.

By contrast, the City of Seattle will spend $84 million and expect nothing in return.

In Auburn, they make it a given.

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