By Jack Mayne

Homeless or near homeless from Burien and beyond urged for passionate concern and support while other, just as passionate citizens, sought relief from crime and the leftovers of drug addiction in neighborhoods and public spaces at a two hour marathon council meeting Monday night (March 20).

The Burien City Council is considering possible solutions to homeless issues, with the potential of opening a day care center.

A large number of people spoke for and against the proposal for a shelter, with many pushing beyond the three-minute time limit. At one point near the end of public comments, Mayor Lucy Krakowiak had the public microphone turned off after the time expired. The mayor, all throughout the hearing, stubbornly tried to restrain applause, largely to no avail.

Crime and fear
Resident Jill Esau (pictured, right) asked why the homeless shelter “was imminent at this point? To host a shelter when we have so many other problems pending that we are facing” noting increases in the Sea-Tac Airport and its noise and traffic, crime and a lot of other problems.

“Last night, my seventh break in in less than two years,” Esau said.

She wanted to know who on the Council was in favor of the homeless shelter, but was told the Council would not answer when in session.

“How come we can’t know that? Don’t you represent us? I just don’t get it, where is the transparency in our representative government here?”

Esau asked Councilmember Austin Bell if he had an answer and was told by Mayor Krakowiak members do not answer questions from the floor.

“Are you OK with that?” she asked mostly upset people in the audience, many apparent opponents to the homeless shelter.

Many shouted “no”.

Then Esau suggested “a compromise” where the shelter would be established only when the crime rate in the city is reduced from the current 13 crime complaints a day, five.

“Would that be a reasonable compromise,” she asked. The Council did not respond, adhering to its rules.

Why here, why now
Earlier, during general public comment period, resident Chuck Rangel said he was opposed to putting a homeless shelter in the now unused fire station. Rangel said with all of the seniors now living at nearby Merrill Gardens, where a gun battle recently took place, “not much forethought was put into that.”

Patti Janssen said the business owners and the citizens of the city were not consulted before coming up with a program to house the homeless. The study quoted in city documents took place in 2015 and “a lot has changed since then.”

Janssen also asked how the city would pay for such a homeless day care facility, noting the city has ignored citizen demands for more police to combat the increasing crime of the city.

Lisa Parks said she was “confused” why the Council would believe having “a day shelter, car encampment, tent encampment or shower facility would be in the best interest of Burien, whether you are homeless or homed.” It all “sounded like another failed plan out of the King County (executive’s) playbook.”

Parks did like ideas of loans or other financial ways to help people find and stay in homes and recommended homeless be sent to Transform Burien, a cooperative group of churches that offer free resources to those in need.

Resident Chris Hemp said he recently brought his seven-year old daughter to the City Hall/Library complex for her first library card. It was a nice day and they brought some food to eat when the child said, “why is the guy peeing outside” and then he noticed people smoking pot.

Hemp said the thing missing from the homeless proposal is input from citizens and business owners.

“I don’t think this is the way to go on this,” Hemp said.

Homeless are people, too
A formerly homeless person, Jason, said he was saved from the streets by social workers and asked that people “to carefully consider when you say ‘those people’ maybe those people are in this room, maybe those people are you neighbors.”

Leighton Humphreys said he was homeless after an accident that caused his hospitalization for a period long enough to cause loss of his job.

“In no way I had any control of things that have happened to me since that time. Living in Burien there are not many resources for me to access,” he said, adding that he is not a drug user.

He said he thought that a day center would be a good idea to be a place where someone could clean up and get off the street.

“Not every person who is homeless is a drug user or a violent criminal,” he said.

Near the end of the meeting Timothy Hunter (pictured, left), a homeless person, said what struck him about the meeting was there were not more homeless speaking to the City Council.

“People who aren’t homeless seem to have so much to say about what to do with us. There are a lot of people who have never been homeless a day in their life and seem to have an assumption of what needs to be done.”

Hunter said he understood there were many who were doing drugs and there are many resources available.

“But what do we do in the daytime? I am hearing more complaints as opposed to solutions and it is so much easier to complain when you see something wrong rather than come up with a solution to what you can do,” Hunter said, adding he wanted to hear more positive things for homeless people to do.
He noted that there were no parks with covers for people on rainy days.

“We’ve got nowhere to be that is not a public park or private property.
Focus more on the positive,” he said.

“Solutions and not complaints,” Hunter added.

Seek what is best
Mark Putnam, director at All Home, a county-wide partnership that aims to make homelessness in King County “rare, brief and one-time,” said the solution is often housing that is available and affordable. There is affordable help in Seattle but less outside the city.

All Home says it “both responds to the immediate crisis of homeless individuals and addresses the root causes of the problem in our region.”

Wherever he has gone in that area, people are motivated with complaints or solutions, more often complaints.

“It is about the community coming together to figure out what is best in your community,” Putnam said.

He presented some statistics from a survey that showed numbers from January 2016, when there were 10,699 people homeless in King County, either in transition, in housing, shelters or on the street. Of that number 4,500 were unsheltered.

“Those numbers keep going up,” he said, with a 60 percent increase in the past three or four years.

Putnam said 91 people died on the streets last year, with the average age at 47.

Of the homeless, 87 percent have been in the area; the rest moved in from elsewhere, he said.

The survey of unsheltered people revealed that 93 percent would accept housing but not shelter, “because there are issues with shelter.”

A big driver for people to be homeless is often the loss of a job and, another is a rent increase.

A survey showed about 30 percent were experiencing mental health problems and 50 percent were using alcohol or drugs.

Making homeless rare is hard work, Putnam said.

The All Home website says the “smartest approach is to stop homelessness before it starts.” The group says they have learned that helping individuals before a crisis “prevents them from spiraling into homelessness.”

To live up to their commitment “to racial and social equity means we must make the shift from a costly, crisis-oriented response to health and social problems to one that focuses on prevention, embraces recovery, and eliminates disparities.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Piasecki said he was asking various groups who listened to the discussions and the speakers to make suggestions of solutions.

Jack Mayne

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

27 replies on “Homeless advocates duel with citizens; crime concerns at Burien Council”

  1. The simple fact is that Burien doesn’t have the funds to support such a grandiose project. Regardless how humane and altruistic our vision might be in having a homeless shelter, we do not have the money without raising taxes substantially. Let the city of Seattle provide an example of this venture that has run amok. If Seattle can’t do it how does Burien? The only way this could would work is thru charities or the private sector, otherwise Burien should just focus on its primary function of keeping its citizens safe. A shelter done haphazardly would just become a Mecca for more homeless and its’ inherent problems.

  2. First, Esau and those who applauded her need a civics lesson on the difference between a a formal hearing and comment period and a town hall. Her “compromise” is absurd. Crime and homelesness are separate policy issues–one is not dependant, nor should be made dependant upon the other. It’s a very confused way to distract from addressing things productively for both. Intentional or not.

    Jansen was also off the rails. She could not even state the population of Burien accurately–How long ago was it 19K? The rest of her rant was also fact free, full of unverified assumptions, anecdotes, heresay, fear and paranoia. But she should be encourged to speak at these things, just for the contrast with those that can back up what that say with objective evidence, research and have experienced things she obviously never has to form such a narrow view point that says no to considering anything for the homeless.

    Hunter, as the last commenter of the night, provided most accurate and piercing comment of them all, and pretty much summed up the attitudes of the majority of commenters.

    When it got to actual expertise and relevant facts presented by ALL HOME and others, not many of those who where critical earlier were still there to hear those inconvient truths.

    1. Charlatanbuster – or whatever your name is. Go back and listen to the video, you’re incorrect in your statement that Jansen said anything about the population being 19K, as far as fear and paranoia. What world are you living in?

      1. I try as much as possible to live in the real world, not one dominated by isolation, fear, stereotyping, trusting sources without verification, and anecdotes on this topic thank you.
        I was actually there and heard her say that during one of her comments. Maybe it did not make it to the video or was intelligible on it. I have no axe to grind or other reason for including it.
        Those with her stereotypical assumptions and false sense of certainty fail the most basic scrutiny.

        1. CharlatanBuster- those are a lot of assumptions for not knowing her personally, also your memory has failed you. Go back and listen to the audio, clearly it wasn’t stated.

        2. charlatanBuster, Esau made the 19K comment. She may have been referring to registered voters.

  3. The council members do not answer questions from the floor while in session. Now I totally understand why residents are so upset with “our” council. Apparently they are hiding so much they don’t want us to know. It sounds like the “rules” need to be changed. There are large turnouts at these meetings and the residents deserve answers.

  4. I watched the entire meeting from home and have to say that I was really impressed by the whole thing. With a couple of exceptions (from both sides), the people who spoke went out of their way to convey their particular sense of urgency without losing respect for others and the process, even when they were obviously wrestling to control a lot of emotion. And with only a couple of exceptions (again on both sides of the issue), people were terrific about honoring the time limit and not requiring the mic to be turned off. Given the way town halls and other public meetings have been going in the country lately, I think everyone who participated Monday should be proud of being part of how well this one went. And it certainly seems like that kind of forum–where electeds, community members, and people on the front lines of delivering services and shaping policies in the region get together to listen to each other, learn from each other, and dig deep into complicated issues together–should happen more rather than less. I think Burien did good Monday night. Thanks for everybody who insisted on making it such a hard hitting but respectful meeting.

  5. If and when “hopefully never” when a day care opens make sure it is not in the city core such as the old fire station. Downtown will never recover with a constant problem.

  6. For those thinking Burien should spend money on more social services; Are you sure? Are you ready for another tax increase? Are you prepared to subject your neighbor to another tax increase? Just because property values have gone up doesn’t mean we’re all awash in cash now. This isn’t the “big city”.

  7. I think it would be great if the homeless folks, had a meeting where they urged ” passionate concern ” for the rest of us, by their fellow homeless. Like picked up their trash and needles, kind of kept the break-ins down to a dull roar. Did not steal everything that was not nailed down.

    Not much chance of that I would guess.

  8. “Build it and they will come”……by the thousands if you build it big enough….
    And, of course, as usual, with “other people’s money”.
    It is what it is….vote accordingly …next election
    Taxpayers home town or …socialists haven….your choice

  9. Picked up more used needles this morning, along with other misc. garbage left in an alcove.

    How are you going to determine who is acceptable to use any shelter sponsored by the city? As I understand it, there is space available in Seattle but, there are rules for admission. The homeless don’t like some of the rules and shun perfectly good shelter and safe places.

    To the city council -surely any of you have yard space available for a few tents and a portable toilet. How about you lead by example and make your property the first “shelters”? Quit putting the burden on the business district. You need their tax revenue to operate. You will have a had time filling empty business sites with all of the bad press and lack of action. I saw where one potential business decided not to locate in Burien. More potential tax revenue lost – nice going. The library hostel is a wonderful addition to the city hall and library – how sad.

    It’s like the broken window. Fix the window, or more windows will be broken.

    It is time for action, not more excuses.

  10. Burien is not an ideal location for a homeless sanctuary. It is far too small, and provides much to much access for the homeless to congegrate here. Our crime rate is far to high, and the obvious gang activity is increasing.

    Money is a large issue, especially with the taxes recently imposed my King County.

    There are a few reasons that I now, never, visit downtown Seattle: traffic, parking, and molestation by the people on the streets. Burien has, unfortunately, successfully increased the traffic and the parking problems with the location of the rapid transit facility and the construction of highly populated downtown apartment facilities. I find it difficult to shop and go to the library.

    I cannot comprehend why anyone in thier right mind would invite homeless people to invade our community.

    I offer no solution, but rejec,t very strongl,y the idea of being the recepient of such a venture.

  11. Surprised at the thumbs down. Obviously, things are great in your minds. Walk the streets with me at 0730.

    I guess discarded needles, garbage, trespassing – are all acceptable to you. Which, is really sad to me.

    Take some pride in your city and seek to make it better. A shelter is not the answer.

    For you two thumbs down, how much time do you spend in the city, off of 152nd? Some areas ain’t pretty at all.

    I pick up garbage every day, return wandering shopping cart to their respective stores – do any of you do that? My answer, would be no. I praise the Discovery Burien crew for all their dedication & hard work. They work hard on your behalf and are to be commended.

  12. I volunteer with the homeless. It is wonderful to feed and clothe them, however, I think we should help them get off the streets. Counseling, drug and alcohol treatment for those that are willing. There are many reasons to be homeless. Some of them have given up and believe there is no hope for them.

    1. Exactly. One person or a small group can make a difference on this. I note that this day shelter was not paid for with taxes. And it is a place for outreach to services elsewhere and onsite as well.
      The amount of money to operate that compared to adding more police has got to be a lot less, and a lot more effective.

  13. For those who want to know how a day center can be effective in getting people into services and into housing, check out Renton’s Center of Hope. It’s a cooperative effort between the City and the Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches. The City rents the old jail, which was nicely re-modeled, for $1/year. It has computers, laundry, places to rest and let children play, rooms for case workers to meet with people, and more. If you do not want people having to take refuge in libraries, a day center that provides specifically for the needs of people experiencing homelessness is a great alternative. Why not the downtown core? The Library is in the downtown core, you’d only be improving a downtown situation that already exists.

    1. Pastor Jenny,
      Would you kindly pass along information regarding success rates for getting people into stable housing and jobs long term? How long does this take, on average?

      I’m also wondering how the program works when the day center closes for the day. Where do the clients go to sleep?

      Thank you

    2. The REACH Center of Hope is a day center and night shelter for homeless families and single women. The Center of Hope partners with a number of agencies, including Catholic t and Community in Schools of Renton. This ensures that our clients are accessing every avenue possible as they make their journey from homelessness to stability.

  14. The old fire station belongs to the fire district, not to the City of Burien. The fire district is looking to get nearly $2,000,000 for the building and property. Even if they were to give it to the city, it could not be used until it is brought up to code. Estimates to bring the old fire station up to code are $400,000 to $500,000 dollars. It doesn’t sound to me like the old fire station is a viable option anyway.

    And those costs don’t include the people necessary to run a “day care.” The number of employees just to run it would depend upon how many of the homeless were using the facility. That would be an absolute minimum of two people. Then there would have to be security, and we can’t forget the clean-up at the end of the day. That is no easy task as well.

  15. HERE THEY COME! the homeless crisis of SEATTLE is moving south! this is a complete failure of government “the great homeless paridise ” WILL SOON BE burien!

  16. I was going to attend the meeting on March 20th, but I come home to a very drunk, smelly, homeless man sleeping in the covered porch area, in front of my front door. He had taken a dump(number 2), right on the carpet, and there was smeared moldy cheese all over the door mat. You cant believe what it smelled like. It smelled like a dirty barn yard that had not been cleaned out for a year. I do have sympathy for the homeless, and yes it is a difficult problem facing many communities-Seattle, Burien, Federal Way, Renton, and Auburn. The list goes on and on. All over this nation. We need to do more to help get the one’s who want help, Help! I’m not sure if downtown Burien, would be the best place for a shelter, but I do know we need a place that they can go day, or night. And yes I don’t think that Burien should take all the financial burden itself. We are a part of King County, perhaps they could help with the money issue. We are all facing this problem together. As the camps close in downtown Seattle, we will see more homeless here in Burien. Perhaps it will take a unified effort on part of all of King County and behond. By the way I’m not new to Burien, my husband and I have lived here Burien for 12 years. We use to live in downtown Seattle. I’ve seen the changes both in Seattle and here and everywhere. So just haling them off in van’s or to jails. They will be back, unless we can come up with some answers. Together!!!

  17. I would like to thank Transform Burien and Pastor Bruce and all of the vollunteers there. Pastor Bruce asked me to speak at your meeting on behalf of the homeless. He asked me not to say anything mean, just explain why I am homeless. I moved here in November of 2014 to work at Burien Toyota. After working there two weeks I applied for Social Security Disability. Social Security will not allow you to have an income during the application process. I applied for Food Stamps and the Aged, Blind and Disabled program with the DSHS office in White Center. I have been waiting since January of 2015 for Social Security to give me a decision. Without going into more detail, I am living in my Van. Thank you.

  18. as a former homeless person I can tell you 90% of homeless is because of drugs and alcohol. mostly heroin. treatment is completely unrealistic, because it is very expensive and very low success rate. heroin is the worst drug in history. it almost destroyed China at the turn of the century. the problem will only get worse, because the government doesn’t have the will to stop hard drugs.

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