On Monday, May 20, the City of Burien released the following statement from City Manager Brian J. Wilson regarding homelessness, tents and camping in city parks:

The City of Burien has heard a number of concerns from residents about how the City is serving those living unsheltered in our community, and about tents and camping in Burien parks and the effect this has on the health and safety of our parks.

As your city manager, I hear the frustration expressed by members of the community. I want to share with you steps the City of Burien is taking to make our parks safe and enjoyable for all of our residents.

City staff are working with regional partners to coordinate and align services in Burien. Sheltering systems and the causes and the ways out of homelessness are complex. There is not a one size fits all solution. Currently, Burien is part of a regional system to address homelessness, which includes service providers and shelters. Mary’s Place and Hospitality House offer services for women and families right here in Burien. But we know there is a lack of resources in Burien for single men, which is why we rely on regional shelters and services.

We are maintaining a team approach between City departments, community organizations, and other public agencies to address these issues. For example, this past year, the City established a navigation team comprised of Burien Police officers, behavioral health outreach workers, and our human services manager. The Navigation Team makes contact with people living unsheltered and tries to connect them to services.

While we work on long-term solutions, there is an immediate need to help those living unsheltered today and address safety concerns in our parks. We also must comply with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision (Martin vs. Boise) that made it unconstitutional to give someone a citation for simply being on public property, including city parks, if the person did not have another place to go, such as an open bed in a shelter.

The City is also working on two new public safety programs, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and Community Court and the Community Resource Center, which will provide more proactive case management and service outreach. Community Court launched in late February and LEAD will launch this summer. The Community Resource Center is available to anyone who needs assistance.

On May 6, the Burien City Council approved a pilot program to address the specific issue of unauthorized use of City parks. The new pilot program is focused on helping people living unsheltered in the parks move into shelter and connect to services. Campers are first contacted by the City’s Navigation Team who offers services, including transportation to available shelters. They are also informed that tents and encampments cannot be on the property and individuals cannot be in the park after hours. After this initial contact, City staff and/or the Navigation Team post signs giving 72-hours’ notice for them to remove their belongings. Shelter services are offered to those being asked to leave the park. Staff clean up the park where the tent or encampment was located once the individual has left.

In addition to this new approach to enforcement, City staff are also working to make our parks a less comfortable place for illegal activities. For example, at the Burien Annex Park we have:

  • Started to upgrade the existing security lights at the Annex Park to provide better coverage.
  • Repairs on the house in our community garden (the “green house”) to repair vandalism and eliminate any attractive nuisances.
  • Focused maintenance resources to areas of concern.

We are also in conversations with Transform Burien, Community Court, and others to establish volunteer clean-up crews staffed by individuals experiencing homelessness and trained by City staff. We have increased monitoring and cleaning of the parks with Burien Police and Parks staff.

We highly encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity in the parks or open spaces to report it to the police by calling 911.

Please contact me directly if you have questions/concerns at brianw@burienwa.gov.

– Brian J. Wilson
Burien City Manager

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