Gross: Burien encampment disheartening local officials, business owners

May 16, 2023, 11:07 AM | Updated: 3:25 pm

Burien encampment...

Burien Councilmember Stephanie Mora, who shared video on Twitter of an encampment being cleared, has heard many complaints from her constituents. (Burien Councilmember Stephanie Mora/Twitter)

(Burien Councilmember Stephanie Mora/Twitter)

After the city of Burien effectively relocated a homeless encampment from City Hall to a nearby business area, it has tripled in size. Now business owners and nearby residents are demanding help.

Burien C.A.R.E.S., a local non-profit, has a pending lease on a lot located at Southwest 152nd Street — where the encampment currently sits.

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The encampment sits near Town Square Dentistry, a local practice run by Dr. Randy Olson.

“I just think putting it next to a health facility is not a good idea at all,” Olson said on The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “We’re doing some difficult surgeries and long procedures, and to have the patients exit the facility and walk by the encampment and occasionally get hassled by some of the campers.”

Burien Councilmember Stephanie Mora has heard many complaints from her constituents.

“I have heard numerous complaints from the businesses,” Mora told The Jason Rantz Show. “Many businesses have also shared footage of people relieving themselves behind or around their business.”

The encampment is undoubtedly a nuisance to the Burien business community. Workers have even been assaulted near the encampment, according to Mora. The council member spent multiple days talking to business owners, noting they all shared the same general tenor.

“Everyone I spoke to those days [were] frustrated that the encampment moved closer to them,” Mora said.

Additional worries are that the relocation is not serving the people living in the camp. Mora said she dealt with a mother looking for her 17-year-old daughter in the camp, who workers claimed they saw with an older man within the encampment.

So much heartbreak is being permitted on these grounds on top of rampant drug use and general violence.

“What I see day to day, the obvious lawlessness, the lack of respect, and the overall brokenness that many of those folks have, I don’t believe we can ever help them,” Mora said.

So where does a solution come from? The tone around the camp is that it will not last in the current location for very long.

“When the campers leave, it’s going to be tough, they’re going to be confused,” Olson said. “They’re not going to know what to do, where to go.”

The belief within Burien is a sweep could be coming to this encampment, which is far from a real solution. Many residents will continue to play musical chairs while a different sector of the community may experience the ill effects.

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“There are a few campers who have been on our streets for at least five years,” Mora said. “If this encampment gets cleared, those few that have been on our streets that long will just put a tent up in another location.”

Relocation also could mean being disconnected from services. Outreach workers then must rebuild and restart relationships with those who need help. However, business owners like Olson and others should not have their livelihoods put at risk because the city isn’t safe.

The encampment continues to grow, and so do the problems for so many in Burien.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-7pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

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Gross: Burien encampment disheartening local officials, business owners