City of Burien eyes partnership with private group to help with encampment sweeps

Aug 17, 2023, 7:34 AM | Updated: 8:06 am

The City of Burien is considering using a private group, The More We Love, to clear out encampments after multiple Burien business owners worked with the organization to help remove homeless from camps near their businesses.

According to Kristine Moreland, the founder of The More We Love, the organization helps homeless individuals build a foundation, create personal connections, and align the right resources for them for continued growth.

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“We were called in by a private owner to come in and compassionately work with the humans that are on the encampment,” Moreland said on The Gee and Ursula Show. “What we like to do is make sure that we’re really intentional with our time and our resources. So Chris and I walked alongside each human, and we started with doing an intake. And when we do that, we understand what their full story is so we can be intentional about placement.

“And once we understand their story and their needs, we begin to work pretty quickly on the detox long-term mental health programs, housing placement, support, and then redirect them back to family members if that’s something that they want,” Moreland continued.

Moreland claimed it takes them no more than 30 days to get displaced homeless individuals the services and connections they need. This was the first private hire for the organization.

Burien has struggled to house people living in a homeless camp that has moved three times over the summer after King County denied the city any additional help. The county cited the lack of a plan in place to safely house the people being moved as a primary reason for not providing extra assistance. The county stated Burien is responsible for the unhoused within city limits as there is no obligation from the county to intervene.

“That was the third time the encampment had been moved and, at that point, the businesses realized that we were going to have to take care of this ourselves,” a business owner and director of the Burien Business Association, Robyn Desimone, told KIRO 7. “Outside of the city government and outside of the police department, and in under 30 days, it worked.”

In June, the Burien City Council voted 4-3 to remove City Planning Commissioner Charles Schaefer after he was accused of going too far when the city moved homeless people from an encampment — the same encampment that has been moved three times this summer — near city hall to a spot at the corner of 6th Avenue SW and SW 152nd Street. Schaefer was an unpaid volunteer Chair of the city’s Planning Commission for just over one year. Soon after the vote, multiple members of the city’s planning commission submitted a resignation letter, accusing the city of using Schaefer as a “scapegoat.” Of the eight volunteer members of the city’s planning commission, only one remains.

More on the Burien encampment: Burien to hold council meeting on mental health, encampment

According to The B-Town blog, King County offered to pay $1 million in addition to 35 pallet shelters at zero cost to Burien if the county reclaims a piece of city-owned land currently being leased to Toyota of Burien.

“What is it that you’re able to do that our city and local government aren’t doing?” Gee Scott, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, asked Moreland.

“I’m allowed to be able to remove all the bureaucracy from this. I don’t have to work within all the red tapes and all the boundaries,” Moreland answered. “My understanding is we are truly working within an epidemic situation right now. The face of homelessness is very different today than it was five years ago. If King County doesn’t adjust its strategic plan, they’re going to find this is going to be worse five years from now. So we have to adjust the way that we are serving this community and it needs to be different with the right people.”

Moreland cited a plethora of “red tape” bureaucratic obstacles on KIRO Newsradio, including certain King County programs only allowing to place people in certain areas, or other organizations only allowing to place homeless individuals in certain areas ZIP code specific. Moreland described the process of acquiring beds for displaced individuals from the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) as a broker system.

More on KCRHA: KC Homeless Authority has salaries released after Dones departs

“We’re brokering beds for convenience,” Moreland said. “And that’s just not how we do it. We need an open door policy that serves people’s immediate needs, especially detox.”

But not everyone on the Burien city council is on board with including The More We Love’s work in the removal of encampments.

“I have a lot of concerns,” Burien City Councilmember Cydney Moore told KIRO 7. “I would certainly hesitate to invest public funding of which we have very little into an organization that can’t provide any documentation of their effectiveness.”

According to The More We Love’s website, the group currently charges $515 per camper swept or just over $20,000 for a 40-person sweep.

The official agenda for the Burien city council will be released Friday for their meeting on August 21.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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