[EDITOR’S NOTEThe following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff:]

I would love to share with you my experience living across the street from the previous encampment at the Annex Park and especially behind the Garden House. We are one of many neighbors that live here. 

As you read this, please keep this in mind. I have worked for Community Health Organization for years and we share compassion, respect, and kindness toward those of us that are struggling to get housing or are addicted to drugs.

We also, like many, have close family that struggle with addiction and so we feel such deep compassion for anyone in that situation. Where I work, we have a suboxone clinic for those that seek help. Through my organization and from my family, we put together hundreds of care packages with toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, sanitizers, body wash, socks, and more for these folks. We are trying to make a meaningful difference.    

It’s never okay to turn our backs on anyone in need. I see that in the people that promote the Garden House as a solution are coming from that same place of compassion and kindness. I believe with all my heart that their intentions are pure.

However, based on my experience, moving the encampment back to the Garden House where children, families, and seniors live, and children play, creates a multitude of safely and quality of life concerns for our family and neighbors and the houseless. 

We moved to our home in 2012. We chose this house because it was a peaceful and caring neighborhood. We got to know the folks that rent space at the community garden house right across the street and met neighbors walking by going to the park. It was the perfect place for us to meet our neighbors and enjoy our wonderful community and retire in our forever home.  

There is large family that shares a fence with the Community Garden and families with children on three sides of the park and a playground on the 4th side. This part is important to think about.  Have you considered where these folks are going to enter and exit? There is gate back there as well and that gate leads directly into the Annex and Skate Park. The only other way in and out is through the garden onto SW 144th Street.

There are only two exits from the back of the Garden: through a gate to the basketball court and skate park, or through the garden to the front. Note there is a house right next door with a family. 
This is what became of the Garden House by 2019.  
This is now.    

Around 2014, tents started popping up behind the Garden House and in the Annex and they kept coming. We didn’t mind at first, we wanted to help, but then it quickly became an extremely unsafe place to live for my family and neighbors and over the years, it only got worse. Yes, I said years

With some houseless folks, came drugs, open sex, and masturbation in full view of all the neighbors and children and anyone walking or driving by.  We didn’t enjoy this view from our home. Needles, garbage, and human feces were a daily problem and since they would openly urinate and defecate in the garden beds, it was also unsafe for the gardeners that rent that space and eat the food they grow. There was arson at the theater, lots of overdoses, and porta potties were either set on fire or were blown up. The police and paramedics were here on a regular basis.

These issues were not confined to the Annex/Garden. It impacted the entire neighborhood and Skate Park and Annex. They didn’t just stay behind the house. Drug dealers often parked in the garden driveway or directly in front of our homes. Please remember there are only two ways in and out.

We are senior citizens and our granddaughter and daughter live in the house behind ours and we are concerned for their safety if you approve the garden to move these folk to.  For years they camped over there. I’ve been yelled at, pushed, and had things thrown at me, spat on, threatened, just when getting my mail or going to my car. I’m not the only one. We heard screams and yelling, and fights day and night and we no longer felt safe.  It’s horrible to wake up to that. Sadly, at least one young person whose name was Mikey, died back there from an overdose. It’s not safe for them either. Seeing Police and Paramedics was a common thing. For us, after so many aggressive encounters, we stopped using our front yard entirely. My family would pick up needles every day for the safely of the neighborhood children and gardeners. We also found needles in the garden beds.

It wasn’t just our personal safety; it was our property as well. Our cars were broken into, our sheds were broken into, and many items stolen and vandalized. The family next door moved away because of all of this, and while the house was vacant between renters, several people from the behind the Garden House broke in and vandalized the property.   

We wanted to sell, but we couldn’t with all of this going on.  

This part is important: The Parks Department and Police met with all the neighbors many times and they worked endlessly with all of us and community and the houseless to get resources for these folks and move them out from behind the Garden House as it became so dangerous. No trespassing signs were already posted and signs stating it was for the “gardeners only” were posted as well. The Parks Dept just brought in bins of vegetables to grow and to give the food bank. What will happen to those and the gardeners if you do this? What will happen to us?

Over the past couple of years, we have enjoyed our neighborhood again and our home. We feel safe again. Families enjoy the garden and park where the Annex was, because it is safe and open. We can enjoy our own house and yard without fear and intimidation. We love to see the families at the park again and our neighbors in their yards.

While we understand that not all these folks are hostile or dangerous, the ones that are, have an extraordinary impact on all of us in the neighborhood, including their fellow houseless folks that are also vulnerable to hostility and violence.

We invite the City Council to just ask the Parks Department and the police, what it was like for our community and come and talk to the neighbors that live here and listen to our experiences on what it was like. We also invite you to consider other options for a more permanent solution instead of shuffling these folks from place to place.  

We look forward to speaking with you on the subject.  

Respectfully submitted, 
– Rhonda Thompson

EDITOR’S NOTEDo you have an opinion you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).

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B-Town Blog Staff

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

4 replies on “LETTER: Burien resident shares experiences, concerns about possible homeless encampment at Annex Park”

  1. I would just like to share what I observed last night (Saturday night) in downtown area around 1030 pm I walked by the tents and it was really quiet, not a sound from any tent.Then I walked over to the transit center and there it seems like one big party. Very few peaple were catching a bus there was open drug use graffiti and just peaple hanging out looking for a wash target to rob or whatever. I would never ever let one of my kids or wife ever go there after seeing what I seen. Why wasn’t I scared you ask well couse I’m 5″10 and 250lbs and I work as a professional mover all day every day. So that being said I’m a big guy and my looks scare peaple away lol any ways as walking back home I again walked buy the tents and again all was quiet. I just wanted to share that becouse in my mind there is a bigger problem then the tents just go to the transit center at night oh and another reason I wasn’t scared is I was walking my dog Cherokee and she is 107 pound mastiff/pitbull lol

  2. I was wondering about the vacant areas that are fenced on 8th street. Are they owned by the airport. This could be a good spot for tents especially if porta potties and showers were installed.

  3. I was robbed by 3 people who live on the tents police report was filed and nothing has come from it . These people just keep doing the same things over and over again. Thanks again Lee Watkins, Jessica hamblet, and a chick they call Pooh 🙏

  4. Really great post by Rhonda, I appreciate how it captures the reality of the situation. I feel that a lot of people think if we provided the right services these people would get off the street or better themselves in some way. The reality is a lot of them are there due to their choices and a lot of them don’t want to quit drugs or find jobs or change their lifestyle. For all of us, it’s probably hard to accept that they live that way because they want to. As someone who has lived for years in downtown Seattle and been around and has known house less people, I’m telling you, these are dangerous people for our community. They commit crimes and do drugs in public and have inappropriate behaviors like masturbating in public, they don’t care to honor rules of a society and that makes it dangerous for everyone else in this community and the few among them that do want to better their lives. I am baffled why our police isn’t arresting them when doing drugs openly in our community. Are they getting a free pass? I am all for having a program to help those who want the help, but if they don’t want to get clean or get a job or to help themselves, then I don’t see why we need to provide services to them. Someone must want to change to allow others to help them. I do not agree that these people should be able to camp out on our parks or public community spaces or live in downtown Burien where all the businesses are, they are deterring everyone else from feeling safe in our community.

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