Burien encampment cleared, but long-term solutions remain minimal

Jun 3, 2023, 6:02 PM | Updated: 6:15 pm

burien encampment...

Burien homeless encampment near City Hall (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Homeless members of a Burien encampment — located near city hall on the corner of SW 152nd and 6th Ave SW — were forced to move out earlier this week as the camp became the central focus of frustration among the city’s residents.

Now, residents fear the people living in the recently-defunct camp will move just up the street a few blocks away with no resolution.

“It’s sickening to me to see that go down,” Burien City Councilmember Stephanie Mora told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM. “There was actually a teenage girl at the encampment. We found out she was a teenage girl and the volunteers were able to reconnect her with her dad because I guess she had been missing for a while. So that was, at least, a good way to end things, but just that being allowed is sickening to me.

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“Where does our responsibility end as a society if we are giving these people a place to go, we’re offering them services, we’re offering them food, we’re offering them shelter, housing, detox services,” Mora continued. “But if they’re saying no, well, where does our responsibility end?”

Burien requested help from its county previously but was denied, according to KIRO 7, with the county citing the lack of a plan in place to safely house the people being moved. The county stated Burien is responsible for the unhoused within city limits as there is no obligation from the county to intervene, furthering Mora and other council members’ frustrations over the homelessness crisis.

“It’s been very frustrating, trying to deal with them even talk to them to see if they can come out and help,” Mora added. “We had LEAD working with the encampment when it first was at City Hall, and I think they were able to get about seven people moved over the course of a year. All of a sudden, a group of volunteers came out one night before the sweep at City Hall happened. They were there about a week before and they were able to get more people placed into housing and placed into services and shelters than our own paid King County staff. That was shocking for me to hear and see that myself.”

LEAD is Burien’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program that diverts homeless and those in need toward community-based treatment and support services, including housing, health care, job training, treatment, and mental health support. The program, which started in 2011, was created to as an alternative to dealing with these individuals outside of the traditional criminal justice system.

“Do you think the King County Regional homelessness authority should exist?” Rantz asked Mora.

“I’m not for organizations that are ran by the government,” Mora answered. “I feel like the government does a really c***** job of managing funds and when they are left with no other way of dealing with something they end up asking for more money, more taxes. I’ve seen more action and more lives turned around by volunteers doing the work themselves.”

The Burien City Council even created and held a special meeting on May 30 to let the public voice their side of the issue, a meeting Mora opined for.

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An additional room for guest speakers was needed as more than 40 people spoke with public comment running for nearly an hour, according to the Burien Town Blog.

“The council before my time, I would just see arguments back and forth. And nothing was getting done. It was just a lot of we’re going to do this and this and that,” Mora said. “And it was, ‘I’m going to shove it down your throat’ essentially.

“I feel like now, we are at least able to talk things over generally. I don’t like to talk during the council. I will give my like two seconds of why I’m not going to vote for something or why I am and we kind of leave it at that,” Mora continued. “And I’m not excited to have people back on the council that are not willing to actually talk things out and just shove ideas down your throat. I would prefer a council that can actually talk things over and figure out a way to kind of get into the middle ground.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Burien encampment cleared, but long-term solutions remain minimal