On Wednesday, April 3, Burien City Councilmember Krystal Marx posted the following statement and photos on Facebook,Â as a response to public comments made by a preschool teacher at Monday night’s council meeting.
As we previously reported, Gloria Witters – a teacher at the Burien Cooperative Preschool located nearby – shared her concerns about homelessness, crime, drug use, hypodermic needles, human waste and more, all affecting the safety of children around Burien’s Annex Park, located at SW 146th and 4th Ave SW.
The preschool is located on the north side of the city park, which also includes a skatepark, Burien Actors Theatre, Hi-Liners Musical Theater, Transform Burien and other organizations.
Here’s the full text of Marx’ statement, as posted to her Facebook page:
** Burien Annex Facility: Homelessness, Safety, Solutions **
At the Monday, April 1st City Council meeting, we heard public comment from teachers and parents from Burien Cooperative Preschool housed at the Annex property on 4th Ave SW and SW 146th/144th. They told Council about their concerns around drug use, homeless encampments and safety concerns present at their facility. I had heard similar concerns from representatives of the Hi-Liners Musical Theatre back in November, and again in January.
The issues presented were in regards to drug paraphernalia found on the grounds, individuals blocking the entrances/exits, individuals engaging in illegal activities (public defecation, nakedness, drug use), concerning behavior, and parents and their children generally not feeling safe using the facility for its intended use.
Concerns were presented about having Transform Burien in the same space, claiming that it is a draw for those seeking homelessness services and enables them to stay on-site even when meals, showers, etc. are not being provided.
I want to share with you my understanding of the situation(s), including what was shared by the City Manager at Monday night’s meeting and what ideas I have heard and agree with from the community.
What Is Planned / In The Works With The City
The City Manager outlined some steps that the City will be taking (and that have already been started) to address the issues presented:
– Update existing / install new lighting
– Move the Port-a-Potty to a more visible location
– Repair / Secure the house at the Community Garden
– Speak with Transform Burien about a volunteer crew to clean up around the facility
– Increase clean-up and monitoring of Burien Parks
– Community Resource Center, co-located with Community Court on Mondays from 10AM – 12PM at the Burien Community Center
What I’m Doing
My husband and I were out at the Annex this morning, as well as yesterday morning, to pick up… well, whatever we could find, and the pictures from this post are from those experiences. We did not find any needles, but we did pick up other drug paraphernalia and trash. While we plan to be out there each morning to continue this effort for at least the month of April, I understand that this is not a sustainable ‘solution’ to what is going on. That is why I am pushing for something with a lot more impact.
Solutions From The Community
Between the responses I received on Twitter (https://twitter.com/bcckrystalmaâ€¦/status/1112920026888077312), conversations I’ve had out in the community and with law enforcement, and feedback received after multiple showings of Tomasz Biernacki’s “Trickle Down Town” documentary, it is clear that the “lock them up” approach is not what is wanted, or what will work, when it comes to addressing both homelessness and open air drug use in Burien. As our Burien Police Department Chief, Ted Boe, said at Monday night’s meeting: being homeless is not a crime.
I would like to see us, as a City, find ways to get people off the street AND address drug use in a way that is both sustainable and does not conflate the two. Whether this is permanent supportive housing, facilities like Camp Second Chance, a used needle exchange, or any combination of the above plus other ideas that I have heard and support, there are many routes we can take towards making an impact.
In the meantime, I believe we should be finding ways to better activate our city parks – it is a proven, low-cost way to decrease criminal behavior in our public spaces, and something that has the support of law enforcement and service providers alike.
I am anxious to hear your thoughts, so please do share them with me. I will be interacting through this post, and will be scheduling an in-person listening session for later this month.
If you are interested in joining my husband and I in park clean-ups – whether at the Annex or another Burien park – please reach out. Our PaRCS Department does an amazing job, but this is OUR community as well; we should be active in caring for it.