[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.]

Without shelter, people die.

The City of Burien has spent over a year enabling and justifying and demanding sweeps – that is, the forced removal of people and their belongings without an appropriate alternative of shelter to offer – against the few dozens of people experiencing homelessness here.

Our little city is home to 55,000 people, and instead of banding our communities together to care for the few hundred people in our city who are most housing insecure, they’ve spent the year complaining about business and property interests. Inventing creative zoning restrictions and threatening and retaliating against service providers, and investing in dubious no-bid, no-metrics contracts with activists and lobbyists. Threatening to sue a church for hosting those the city would not, and yielding to dark money activists to pit neighbor against neighbor and cancel an expansion of services at another church. Defunding service providers. Refusing to offer 24/7 hygiene facilities anywhere at all in the city. (One councilmember suggested the homeless should use doggy bags instead.)

At Sunnydale Village, the first sanctioned encampment in South King County, which operated this winter, we were very happy to be able to connect residents with outreach workers and public health organizations to help with education and supply for basic harm reduction supplies: a source of fresh water, a sanitary portable toilet and washing station, fire extinguishers, and not least, the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

We didn’t lose anyone from Sunnydale Village over the winter, mercifully. The two people who died outside in Burien in the last months of 2023 were found in Puget Sound Park and the freeway overpass. In 2024 the only deaths of unsheltered individuals have occurred since Sunnydale Village’s closure. 

The city has not chosen to prioritize harm reduction, and instead both elected and appointed leaders are trying to play the blame game by pointing to former colleagues, to my nonprofit organization, to the “mean” county, to the noncompliant sheriff’s office for refusing to sweep people without services to offer.

To be clear: it is the choices of our elected representatives that have led to unsanctioned encampments in Burien with no alternatives to offer. Harm reduction is much more difficult at unsanctioned encampments, which is where this council majority has chosen to place those with nowhere else to go. The experience of homelessness is inherently unstable and vulnerable. Unsanctioned, unsupported camping in a median strip by a busy street between a sidewalk and hostile private entities. This council majority has continually chosen virtually the worst of all options. Our city has chosen to make life as difficult as possible for those whose lives are already the most difficult.

This result is not what anyone wants in Burien. Not the progressives, not the libertarians, not the Democrats or Republicans, the unionized workers or the small business owners, those who want to increase or decrease the police share of the budget. Not even the police themselves.

A man died outside in Burien today. Another man was rescued from a burning tent. 

There’s no punchline. This is just what we are choosing. 

– Daniel Martin
Burien Resident

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 scott@southkingmedia.com 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). 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.

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  1. What are the homeless choosing? Are they choosing homelessness to do drugs? Do they want a better life? Do they want to go to a shelter? Are they capable of making a decision to help themselves? What are they willing to do? They have a stake in their outcome; it’s not just the residents or leadership of Burien.

  2. You yourself have been involved since the beginning and yet people still die on the street as recently as today, how come you have been unable to encourage everyone to except services and shelter if that will cure everything? Is it because you feel the rights of those on the street outweigh any sort of intervention because that would defeat individuality and perceived freedom to live as they wish? Your attitude and enabling is why the issues persist, others want those in need to quit being manipulated as pawns by activists who perpetually feed the cycle of misery.

  3. Daniel, it appears that it was an overdose. What does this have to do with Burien’s policies? I don’t think that Burien forces people to take drugs. This is a personal choice. Get off your high horse and face the facts. There is a drug crisis and we citizens
    are not responsible for people’s life choices. They are offered services and no one can force them to take advantage of them.

    are not responsible for other people’s life choices. I am not going to babysit adults. There are service organizations willing to help.

  4. Again, the insinuation is that there is no lodging available for the unhoused. My understanding is there is lodging available. It is not “low barrier”, however. Meaning they will not be allowed to drink or use other drugs, which will eventually kill them. Please correct me, if this is not correct.

  5. …. Things do need to change obviously for the homeless issue that’s across the entire nation, there still hasn’t been one good sustainable solution that I’ve heard about. (forever funding the homeless (from city seats) isn’t a sustainable option, just a gross abuse of funds with no clear plan for lowering homeless numbers. Also in this letter you speak very direct (which is fine) but you DON’T speak for all of the Burien residents nor does your word rise above others so make sure you know that.

    A sustainable program that would be fair for everyone is most important, to come up with a program that’s centered around prioritizing the homeless to help the homeless (with some outside intervention), accountability for all sides is needed, not just “give me $$$ each year and lets house, feed, and pay for everything for each homeless person because that’s called enablement and you will more than likely be increasing the homeless population by doing that and people will abuse that system very easily. (ACCOUNTABILITY IS A MUST) Come up with a sustainable solution, don’t just complain – we all know its a problem. I do believe its possible to find a sustainable solution

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