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

27 years ago, I was elected the city’s first openly gay councilmember. The first suburban openly gay councilmember in Washington. It was a difficult 8 years during which I accomplished some goals I’d made when I moved to Burien 32 years ago. Those goals included 1) adoption of domestic partner benefits; and 2) adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance.

Years later, Burien PRIDE became an annual celebration under the aegis of Discover Burien.

I planned to attend this year’s events, as usual, but instead will boycott the celebration due to the city’s sweep of unhoused people along 152nd. PRIDE events are displacing the unhoused who the city council has made sure have nowhere to go.

So, what if I’m gay and homeless? Being swept is not exactly a celebration.  I see the city’s sweep as using one marginalized group – LGBTQIA+ – to oppress another – unhoused persons.

As the original gay councilmember, I say: Not In My Name.

– Stephen Lamphear
Burien resident

Update from Burien Police Chief Ted Boe:

We reached out for clarification on this issue to Burien Police Chief Ted Boe, who sent us the following statement:

“The pride festival and the father’s day car show have a permit to use the road and sidewalks in specific areas of downtown. The only areas impacted are the areas covered by the permit. Those living in those areas were provided notice to relocate to an alternate location not in conflict with the event permits. This message was communicated by city staff, police staff and service providers.”

And here’s a copy of the notice that has been circulated around downtown encampments:

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

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8 Comments

  1. The homeless are free to go to another street – nothing has stopped them so far from camping where they want – or even go to an actual homeless shelter.

  2. There would be no sweeps necessary if the campers didn’t continuously shun services, the help to break the cycle of addiction is there thru many avenues. Others it seems use that group to tout self importance, they make a personal decision that ultimately is nothing but grandiose and pompous.

  3. This person sounds incredibly privileged and obviously doesn’t have to deal with the “homeless” in Burien on a regular basis. Let’s replace the term “homeless” or “experiencing homelessness” or “unhoused” to describe what they really are now . . . drug addicted criminals and mentally ill people. I have to deal with these people DAILY and I have little sympathy for them. Maybe if they are displaced from 152nd for one day the businesses around there will experience a day without shoplifting. These people are actually hurting the entire economy and folks who work for a living in the area. Rampant crimes and theft are causing the business’ to have less hours for their employees. The business’ aren’t going to take a financial hit so it falls on the hourly workers. Less hours. Longer lines at the store. I won’t even touch on the problems with public drug use. Little children should be able to go to the store with their parents and not have to witness a man not wearing any pants or a drug addict freaking out. Maybe this great champion of LGBTQ+ and homelessness should invite all these people to camp out in their yard. Again, incredibly privileged and without an actual clue as to what is happening on the streets of Burien. Why write a statement applauding yourself?? No need to announce your “boycott” because the people of Burien know the reality of the situation and don’t care one bit.

  4. We have lived in this area for 50 years and raised our family here. The library has always been an important part of our life and we still visit it often. However now there are tents in front of the door so we choose to use the other door. It was a wonderful surprise today to see the front of the library cleared again. It seems today only the homeless have rights. How about the established residents who pay taxes? Why are our rights ignored? Drugs seem to be plentiful in the homeless camp in front of the library and at other local areas. Recently there have been deaths from overdoses. This fact is truly heartbreaking but instead of trying to solve the basic issues these people are seemingly being permitted to continue this lifestyle. Everyone has the basic right to live, but this situation is not positive for the people living in the camps or the rest of the community. It is my hope these tents do not return to the front of the library. It’s time to consider the rights of the taxpayers too and not just the people living in the tents. They need services and help and not an environment of enabling.

  5. I appreciate this statement, especially considering LGBTQIA+ youth are the most at-risk population for homelessness. I’ve also personally seen several of the homeless population in front of the library sweeping and trying their best to keep things clean despite some bad actors, and am really sick of the rhetoric that our library is a minefield of feces. It absolutely is not, and I don’t believe a single one of you have visited downtown burien or the library in the past few months. (I am there several times a week.)

    However, sweeps before festivals are nothing new, and I don’t like the insinuation that Pride (or the festival) is the problem. It’s OK to be against sweeps, but please don’t punish the vendors and performers who didn’t personally conduct the sweeps. I am still looking forward to the festival, even if I disagree with the act of sweeps.

    1. That’s strange because I’m there everyday and the surrounding neighborhood is usually full of drugged out people and the mentally ill who apparently have stopped taking their psych-meds. Maybe they use all the items they shoplift from nearby stores to keep their village of tents nicely manicured and well kept but yesterday we had several instances of these folks harassing our customers. The great thing just recently is the police have been responding to our calls. At least 4 times just this week. I guess I have a different perspective having to deal with things like rampant shoplifting, violence from these people such as throwing things at our employees. Most are so drugged out I doubt they even know what they are doing most of the time. I STRONGLY support sweeps. Let’s remember that these are the people who refused going to a shelter because they wouldn’t be allowed to do drugs. That apparently trumps “rehabilitating” themselves. I’ve only personally witnessed three separate drug overdoses in the area. I know there have been many more. We need to come to the realization that it’s more of a drug and mental health problem than a being homeless problem.

  6. “Its a drug and mental health problem, not a homeless problem.” I know there are 15 openings in at least one nearby homeless shelter – What excuse is being used today to continue this? (Its not an army of 100,000’s of homeless here), the Burien “homeless” problem is one that can be solved but allowing a homeless individual whom is strung out on drugs and/or mentally unstable to make their own decision on whether to go into (FREE) drug-free housing/counseling is a problem. Laws and parameters for public throughways and public owned areas need to be strongly enforced, if the public areas and drug sales are down for the homeless… then the homeless will be limited in their options and will choose the better path which is to get help and fix their lives which comes with better amenities than the homeless street/drug life.

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