[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. The writer of this Letter has campaigned and contributed to candidates mentioned within.]

I have been working with the unsheltered homeless community in Burien for the past 3+ years at the Burien Severe Weather Shelter, helping people survive inclement weather in Burien. Dozens of people are able to get out of the cold and wet and snow during the time that the shelter is open.

And yet, as soon as the immediate emergency of a storm has passed, Burien has no permanent shelter, and not nearly enough units of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, market rate housing, or other forms of shelter to house all who call Burien home. The Burien Housing Action Plan set a target of 7500 new housing units needed in our city by 2044, and we are continuing to lag behind the target.

Predictably, without available alternatives, some community members have been left with no other option but to pitch a tent on public property.

After several questionable, though creative, expansions on the definition of “private property” and “parks” and the suddenly discovered desperately needed investments in dog parks and empty parking lots, the Burien Four and the city manager turned to a simple ban.

Earlier this year, when the Council majority (Aragon, Schilling, Matta, Mora) scapegoated and retaliated against a volunteer board member who assisted the unhoused to survive the last sweep, the remaining six members of the Planning Commission, every single one, resigned in protest, plus at least six members of other commissions. The 33rd Legislative District Democrats, the Burien Human Services Commission, the County Executive’s office, the Regional Homelessness Authority,  faith groups, and basically every human service organization and community partner that works with our unsheltered neighbors have denounced this Council majority’s punitive approach and urged collaboration, to no avail.

Instead of working with county partners to accept no-strings money for housing people, they passed a “camping” ban (Ord. 818, amended by Ord. 827), creating a new misdemeanor offense that is so poorly worded that it has already had to be amended once, and nevertheless leaves our community unsure of such basic things as enforceability, constitutionality, effective hours, availability of alternatives, how it will be enforced, and by whom. They have delegated the city manager to enter into a questionable contract with a questionable organization with a questionable business model for “compassionate transition services”. Sweeps without services. Out-of-town detox, away from families and case workers. Temporary hotel stays with no plans for the long-term behavioral, physical, and mental health needs of the people with nowhere to sleep in the city.

Existing while homeless is not, and cannot be, a crime. The courts have continuously maintained that “as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.” Martin v. Boise (9th Cir. 2018)

Burien’s website affirms this, stating that “Homelessness is a serious regional and national issue that cannot be solved by arresting people. Laws that unintentionally criminalize homelessness are not long-term solutions, and in some cases are not supported by the Federal Court of Appeals. The Burien Police Department works in collaboration with the City’s Human Services staff to work to address homelessness at its root and to reduce the harm done to the unhoused community.” Leading with Services is promoted widely.

This council majority has deeply undermined community trust and regional partnerships through its exclusively punitive approach to homelessness. To truly move towards our professed values, to represent the rights of all including the right to shelter, I ask my fellow Burienites to vote by November 7 for Mosqueda, Moore, Marx, Hudson, Tidholm, Ruiz. These leaders are committed to a collaborative and holistic approach to our interlocking issues that protects and serves all members of our county, our city, and our schools.

– Daniel Martin

Daniel Martin is an organizer, artist, and commissioner. He serves on the King County Community Advisory Commission for Law Enforcement Oversight (CACLEO), the Burien Human Services Commission, the Burien 2044 Planning Advisory Commission, and is part of the core leadership team of the Burien Severe Weather Shelter. The opinions in this letter are my own and do not represent any entity or agency. Daniel can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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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 provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes). Also, because we’re receiving a lot of Letters during this 2023 election season, we will also attempt to include what writers have contributed to candidates via the PDC website. Read our updated Letter to the Editor policy here.

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

5 replies on “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘I ask my fellow Burienites to vote by November 7 for Mosqueda, Moore, Marx, Hudson, Tidholm, Ruiz’”

  1. Marx had a plan to put flammable hand sanitizer in parks not thinking it would get missed used by teenagers or the homeless or mental ill

  2. Taking this offer would have sunk Burien further into financial despair. It’s not even enough to fund a year of a sanctioned homeless camp. Rushing into this would have been short-sighted bad policy. Something Cydney Moore and Krystal Marx are both known for.

    People are sick of dysfunctional government and by far the biggest catalysts are the minority on the council and their small band of local supporters. You may be the loudest, but you are not the majority.

    Also, WTH do school board candidates have to do with these issues?

  3. Let’s be real, the implication is these are Burien residents that have simply become homeless. This is wrong. These are folks who showed up when Seattle started sweeping again.

    An “artist/organizer” may think it’s possible for a community with a micro tax base to house all these people. But frankly, those of us who deal in reality know this is far outside the capabilities and scope of Burien.

    Vote for the council candidates that have gained experience through sustained employment. Those who view the job as serving the community and not vice-versa. Those who know the scope of the job and have solutions based in reality.

  4. In response to Daniel Martins’s letter to Burien voters, I implore those voters to not vote for Mosqueda, Moore, Marx, Hudson, Tidholm and Ruiz. A vote for them would encourage homeless encampments in Burien!!

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