[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 attended kindergarten through 12th grade in the Highline School District. 40 years ago, after dental school, I moved my family to Burien, and 20 years ago opened up Town Square Dentistry. Opening my business happened before the Downtown Street Project, the condominium project, the library, and before many restaurants came to Burien. Last summer, as I was walking through Burien on a warm summer night, I saw others walking the streets and enjoying the town. I felt a great vibe and thought that this little city could go in one of two directions.

Because of recent events, many neighbors have reached out to me due to the homeless encampment adjacent to our health facility, expressing that they have decided to change the way they vote–that they want to vote in the way of common sense ideas. We must decide: do we want to be like the cities Kent and Auburn and place “No Camping” policies in Burien? Or do we want to house the homeless from all these areas combined? Do we want policies that allow open drug use and human waste on the streets? Do we want a police force that can enforce those laws? Even if we vote to be the city that houses the adjacent city’s homeless, we should shut down the homeless encampment adjacent to the health facility and end the trespassing on that facility which creates unsanitary conditions.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by KIRO News and stated that the homeless have rights; then, I asked if we should prioritize the homeless rights over the rights and safety of citizens, businesses, and elderly patients. My wife spoke at a Burien City Council meeting and told, through her tears, the story of our daughter, who was approached by a homeless man on drugs who sexually assaulted her in front of her one and three-year-old children in a Burien parking lot. This man had been recently arrested for fighting with the police and had many other counts against women on his record. My wife and I now grieve that our daughter and our two grandchildren have since moved across the country. In her speech, my wife asked if homeless’ rights should supersede citizens’ rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights–questions we should all be asking as we cast our next votes.

The Town Square Dentistry employees and I have served the poor domestically and internationally through 10 mission trips over the years. It’s no mystery that we feel great compassion for the poor and homeless, especially in places where there are few opportunities for jobs. We feel an even greater compassion for the homeless in our domestic cities because many of our laws enable the homeless, which prevents them from realizing all the opportunities right here in the land of opportunity. There is no opportunity when one can simply move their belongings from one drug scene to the next. Is this action not the definition of doing the same thing and expecting different results?

I feel the city is responsible for creating this homeless camp next to Town Square Dentistry and realize that they claim that city employees acted on an individual basis. I think this could be open to great legal debate.

I would like to thank the city council for voting to allow this area to be leased to business owners that will allow the homeless camp to be moved. I did see a city vote regarding placing a SaniCan in the area, but despite these efforts, the SaniCan vote was overturned after a city meeting. Hopefully, the city’s vote to lease the land will not somehow be prevented. I think we should give the city a chance to correct their mistakes. Any of us would ask for that. I would like to thank Councilwoman Stephanie Mora, as she has been the only council person or Burien employee who has contacted me personally to ask how we are doing through this process. Her reaching out shows compassion for the citizens and businesses, and concern for the safety of people in Burien.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the nonprofit groups and churches who have been able to get some of the campers in the treatment facilities and shelters; these are worthwhile efforts. Unfortunately, the reality on the street is, that once the campers are removed, their spots are immediately taken by others, which means that encampments will continue to grow and may eventually spread to the sidewalks of one of the most desirable areas in downtown Burien.

I would ask that the camp be immediately moved, and if Burien decides it wants to be the city to house the homeless, let the encampment at least not be next to a health facility performing surgeries with patients who are leaving the facility recovering from anesthesia.

This summer, as you’re walking through the streets of Burien on a warm night, ask yourself which direction you would like to see this little town go. Should we prioritize the rights of the homeless over the safety and rights of Burien citizens? Be thinking about how you want to vote this November and what kind of future you want here.

– Dr. Randy Olson, D.D.S.
Town Square Dentistry

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13 replies on “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Dentist located next to encampment shares his thoughts on homeless”

  1. The continual non prioritization of the needs of the homeless is, literally, why homelessness exists.

  2. Thank you B-Town blog for printing this letter.
    Its very sad to read about legacy businesses in Burien suffering the unthinkable. The damage caused to this family due to sexual assault will last decades and warrant years of therapy to heal from. I am very sorry this family has suffered from this stunt. We live just across the street. Every Monday I spend the afternoon with my two granddaughters. We use to walk to Grand Central Bakery but after being confronted by a whacked out druggie, putting his hands down his pants and screaming, I made a decision not to expose my grand kids to this craziness.
    While I support Cydney Moore’s and Charles Schaefer’s efforts to serve the homeless, this stunt of moving 8 to 10 people to the dog park has grown into a massive 30-tent drug abuse riddled disaster. Its a breeding ground for crime and drug dealing. People are still urinating in public and smoking crack openly all through the night with zero regard for the good businesses and citizens of Burien. If Cydney finds a new place for them it can not be too soon. She really took on a Burien problem that has now evolved into an invasion of drug abusers from King County- and day by day more tents go up. Its four times larger than what we had around the library. Add to it the city’s efforts to prevent the local church’s from helping to resolve what was about ten homeless at the time., threatening them with permit violations!
    I do not know how adjacent businesses can deal with this but this letter sure gives the reader a point blank view.
    I offered to open up my home and property to house the ten or so homeless when the move came but it was turned down due to not being close enough to services. Those ten would have been placed in shelters by now.
    During the Vietnam war, I was involved in bringing people from Vietnam to camp Pendleton in 1975 win the war ended. We put up tents in record time, complete with services of all kinds. The lack of action and creativity coming from our leadership is a strong indication that people need to come to the voting box and vote for people they can think and act to resolve these problems without pulling stunts, and acting individually instead of collectively. Even now, given the vast amount of taxes that Burien citizens pay, there is a way to solve this problem, but it’s gonna take some serious leadership. Here are the steps that I would take if I was put in charge..

    1) immediately I would get king county to finance putting up some tents at the old annex property complete with beds, and a medical staff

    2) I would encourage all churches in Burien to help with volunteers to help place those that wish to be in shelters be put in shelters
    3) for all of those that are in need of medical treatment with regards to mental health, King County can supply people to help with this, just as they did with Covid
    4) have the Burien Police Department post at least two officers full-time 24/7 until all people in the tents are placed in shelters
    5) treat all of the above as an emergency because that’s exactly what it is.
    6) drug users would be required to go through an on-site drug rehabilitation Center
    Short of this. Nothing is going to get solved the day that they sweep the dog park. Sooner or later, you have to take serious action. Trust me, I know, I’ve been there on the tops of the Saigon embassy. I was there when we were pushing helicopters off of aircraft carriers to make room for the homeless. It can be done it just takes some bold action, we can do it

  3. Thank you, Dr. Olson, for writing and for your fantastic work in our community. So sad to hear your family‘s experience. I pray for resolution to this situation.

  4. Separating those experiencing homelessness from “citizens of Burien” is exactly why our homelessness crisis continues to worsen- you are dehumanizing those in Burien who are suffering because our public safety net has failed them. They are not lesser than citizens because they have to sleep without a roof at night. Single mothers disproportionately experience homelessness (by a drastic measure), so homelessness IS an issue of women’s and children’s rights.

    1. How many of the people in the tents have women and children? And when I drive by and it looks like the scariest block party ever, they sure seem to be enjoying the freedom and flexibility to do whatever, whenever, and wherever they’d like! Please acknowledge that some people are just hooked on drugs and don’t want to stop. Period. Until you at least admit that fact, I’ve got no patience for your bleeding heart rhetoric.

  5. I would like to vote for city ordinances that simply prohibit camping within city limits, and authorize police to enforce those ordinances. It affects health and safety. We have ordinances that prohibit fireworks, for example, and the police enforce them. I see no difference. There is no fundamental human right to detonate fireworks, and there is no fundamental human right to camp wherever one wishes.

    1. City ordinances for fireworks are not enforced. Have you been to Gregory Heights for July 4th?….

      1. You may have an anecdotal observation of activity in one neighborhood on July 4th which I would not refute. I believe I have a wider view, however, since a personal friend is a patrol sergeant in Burien, and I was in actual telephone contact with him on July 4th. He told me they were out very actively shutting down fireworks and writing citations to people.

  6. I have sympathy for you, your staff, and your family.
    I went to Bartells @ 8 a.m. today and a ranting homeless person who was obviously on something, was walking back and forth in front of our bldg. I went out the side door. I took my time, hoping that he would be gone. I came back and he was right in front if the bldg. screaming and yelling and then directed it at me. I had a heavy bag and was concerned that he would try to get in when I opened the door. I went to Merrill to see if they had a security guard. The mgr. walked with me to our door because it had unnerved me.
    For those of you who believe he was harmless, put your fairy tale books down and get real. He wanted to get into our bldg. and then who knows what.

  7. We are hearing ONE side of a story… and to what extent is it potentially embellished?…. We need, the local city leaders, need to work with surrounding communities to ensure more affordable and/or transitional housing is built, and in the interim period, designate a specific piece of land where people may “camp” (via tent or RV) if they wish.. I do not advocate for destroying the natural environment with the potential of drug activity (needles) or garbage for that matter. Homelessness should not be criminalized, and as a community, we are compelled to find a happy medium so that these folks can become fruitful members of society.

  8. I have lived in Burien since 1970. Lots of things have changed. I’m grateful we have a blog. First time for me to write on it. I no longer walk down 152nd, I drive and now parking is limited. More buildings are going up and less parking. Will all these new buildings have enough parking? Are the two new buildings going up for low income people or Homeless?

  9. Like I said earlier. Put your fairy tale book down and my experience was not embellished. I grew up on the south side of Chicago and have seen more than you can imagine. I don’t believe in providing homes for druggies unless they agree to get help. No one should get rewarded for antisocial behavior. II spent most of my adult life as a teacher. I think that I did a good job of teaching right from wrong. If you choose to hang around doing nothing but taking drugs, you should not be rewarded. If people want help, there is a lot available.

  10. If you think that I have embellished my experience, Craig, feel free to try to find the homeless guy to get his side of the story. Actually, you can talk to the mgr. of Merrill.

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