Kristine Moreland and her organization, The More We Love, have been the subject of much conjecture about homelessness in Burien over recent weeks.
Moreland – who also works as a Mortgage Loan Officer in Kirkland – was hired privately by a business owner to help relocate the homeless that had been camped in front of the Dollar Tree & Grocery Outlet on SW 152nd Street, and seems to have been able to accomplish what many organizations in partnership with the city could not – finding beds for the homeless, either in shelters, rehab facilities or with their families.
According to her website, Moreland has “dedicated over 20 years of her life to serving the homeless community through outreach programs and connections.” She conducts private sweeps, at an apparent cost of $515 per “camper,” or about $20,000 for a “40-person sweep.”
All Burien City councilmembers and the city manager were contacted for their take on the apparent success of this small, private operation, and what that could mean for the city’s remaining homeless population. Moreland herself initially agreed to an interview but then canceled at the last minute, saying that she has no comment at this time.
Councilmember Cydney Moore said:
“I have a lot of questions about the work Kristine has been doing in our city. I don’t have any concrete data to refer to as a means of gauging what the results of her work has been. Other organizations can specify how many people they have helped relocate into what kind of shelter or housing – there has been no such report provided by Kristine.”
Councilmember Sarah Moore:
“It’s difficult to comment on the work Ms. Moreland has done, unless and until she can share data to show the outcomes of her work. We have no way of knowing if people are being helped or if she is merely moving people further away from the city. As a councilmember, I have a responsibility to ask these questions about any organization we partner with. The reading I have done on Ms. Moreland and her organization to date leaves me with more, rather than fewer questions.”
Councilmember Stephanie Mora, on the other hand, has been supportive of Moreland for months, stating:
“The work Kristine [has] done in our encampments downtown has been so incredible to witness.”
Mayor Sofia Aragon said:
“We see progress reported by the community,” Aragon said, and went on to add that city staff have been in communication with Moreland about how many people she is assisting, and where they are going. Aragon said healthy scrutiny is important, and the city is looking into Moreland’s methods and results. According to Aragon, Moreland has given assurances to city staff that the homeless she works with are going to treatment facilities that use scientifically accepted methods.
Why has The More We Love been able to successfully relocate so many homeless people when the many other organizations partnering with Burien could not?
Stephanie Mora said:
“What they did with the encampment in front of Grocery Outlet was the perfect example of what can happen when the private sector funds organizations to help people vs when the government funds organizations. I have never been a fan of the government trying to help people. Yes there’s a time and place, but in this instance the clear winner was the private sector. The More We Love didn’t have the same restrictions and red tape that other outreach workers have. They come in with literally open arms, hugging everyone. They set boundaries and expectations for everyone, they tell the person they are helping that they matter, they are loved and it’s time to get out of here. I have this place for you, are you ready to get out of here and go into treatment? They did this over and over again, they came back everyday until everyone was ready to make positive change in their lives. They were the exact amount of tough love and no nonsense these people needed. Everyone that was living at the encampment has so much respect for The More We Love team.”
Cydney Moore said:
“I believe the contracted partners we have had working in our city have been focused on providing long-term support, and finding services that are effective for those they serve. The goal has been to connect people with shelter or housing – not just to relocate them somewhere else. From my understanding, Kristine was paid to remove people from the area along 152nd St. What I am being told by multiple sources, including unhoused individuals themselves, was that Kristine made the homeless people in front of Grocery Outlet believe they were being swept, and had to move. I have no information that confirms any of the people who were moved from 152nd were connected with any sort of shelter or housing; from what I understand, several people were offered a hotel room in Renton for a week; such an offer does not provide any long-term solution and is simply a matter of shuffling people around from one place to another. My expectation is that we may see many of those individuals back out on the street soon, no closer to housing or shelter than before.”
According to Sarah Moore:
“When we talk about success, we really have two conversations going at the same time. The first is the quality of placements she has made, and we have virtually no data showing if the placements were appropriate for the individuals, providing the services they need, and if they remain in the “housing” today – this worries me. It also concerns me that there is no apparent alignment with existing service providers, and that The More We Love is not a King County partner organization, perhaps because the org is only four months old. The other metric is from the perspective of the business community and housed persons living near the site of congregated groups of homeless folks. By that metric, we see fewer tents in Downtown Burien and that may be seen as a success in and of itself.”
Mayor Sofia Aragon:
Mayor Sofia Aragon explained that The More We Love does not have the same limitations and restrictions as programs like LEAD/REACH. For example, Aragon said that LEAD/REACH can only send people to other King County-funded services, while The More We Love can connect people with any housing and human service provider, such as the Union Gospel Mission or Chief Seattle Club.
Is the City of Burien interested in working with Kristine Moreland to help with the remaining large encampment on Ambaum?
Emily Inlow-Hood, Communications Manager for the City of Burien:
“At this time, the Burien City Council has only directed the City Manager to explore the potential for a contract with the organization The More We Love. There is currently no update to share on the nature or scope of any potential contract, as the directive was just issued last week during the City Council’s meeting on August 7.”
Cydney Moore responded:
“I personally have concerns about contracting with Kristine Moreland using public funding. It has come to light that Kristine has a history of using deceptive and illegal practices, for which she has been charged, and is still currently paying off court fines for (EDITOR’S NOTE: View PDF of a 12/20/21 Consent Order against Moreland here). I think that history, paired with some of the allegations of using questionable practices with our homeless population, deserves due consideration in a conversation about whether the city should contract with her or not. We have limited public funding, and typically require adherence to strict guidelines for reporting effectiveness of operations with organizations we give grant funding to or contract with. I have seen nothing that suggests Kristine or her organization would meet the standards we typically have when considering contracting with an organization.”
Sarah Moore stated:
“I want to clarify that the city council has neither voted on this topic, nor even discussed it. So it’s premature to ask whether the ‘city’ is interested. Some councilmembers have asked for it to be discussed, but none of us has enough information at this point to determine if we want to work with her organization. One of the criteria I am looking for in a provider is that they can demonstrate that their work improves the lives of the people they claim to help. I would like The More We Love to provide data on outcomes that show people being stably housed. So far, that is something I have not seen.”
Stephanie Mora said:
“I personally would love to keep Kristine here but I know that at this time it’s not possible to have this happen in a timely manner if done with the city.”
Do you believe there is a solution to homelessness that has not been tried, and what do you think needs to happen to solve the problem long term?
Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling responded:
“As I’ve said from the beginning, my goal for Burien during the homelessness, mental health, and drug addiction crisis has been for the city to work to get folks off the streets and into shelter and services. I believe in order to do that, communities have to use an “all-of-the-above” approach. That approach should be a combination of compassion with effective solutions that provide encouragement for individuals to accept services and shelter, wherever those services and shelter options may be. This is a regional issue that requires the regional government agency responsible for this work to show results; Burien cannot solve a regional issue on its own. I will continue to advocate for collaboration and partnerships with all entities, whether they are businesses, educational organizations, faith-based organizations, community organizations, service providers, and governmental departments. I believe this to be the best way to invest regional and local resources into Burien to continue to encourage the acceptance of options to get folks off the streets and into shelter and services.”
Stephanie Mora responded:
“I definitely think there is a solution but it’s more complex. Unfortunately because the council is always changing I don’t know that we can realistically do much to change homelessness. We can try to prevent encampments but that won’t fix homelessness.”
Cydney Moore stated:
“The solution to homelessness is providing long-term housing; providing shelter in the interim; providing support services to help people get and stay healthy and stable; and creating policies that help people stay in housing once they have it, and prevent people from entering into the cycle of poverty and homelessness to begin with. There is not one single act that can solve homelessness in an instant, but there are many steps that can be taken to alleviate the circumstances we see today. I believe right now we need to allocate a space where our unhoused population can be, while we work to find shelter and housing for them. There is an option besides leaving people to fend for themselves out on the street, with little to no support, lacking basic safety, hygiene, and sanitation. Sanctioned camps with oversight, regulations, ongoing support, and connection to a wide array of support services, can be a step in the right direction. The concept is not so different from what we see with FEMA camps – people in crisis who have been displaced are offered somewhere safe to stay, are provided essentials like access to medical care, and are relocated somewhere more permanent as housing or space becomes available. What we are facing today with our homelessness crisis is a public health emergency – we should treat it as such, and act accordingly.”
Sarah Moore said:
“The solution to homelessness is housing. Homelessness is highest in cities where housing is more scarce and the prices are high. We know this as a fact that is supported by research. Ultimately, we need to increase the housing stock in Burien at all income levels. Burien’s Housing Action Plan shows that roughly half of the housing we need to add must be affordable to people earning 80% AMI (about $88,500/year in 2021) and below. In the meantime, we cannot simply put people into housing (such as a hotel for a week-long stay, as I have heard is the case with The More We Love) without also working to address the root cause of their homelessness; there needs to be services on-site and at the ready. Each individual has their own story and their own specific needs. We must work to ensure that we are not trying to create a one size fits all solution, because that’s not how it works with humans. While we struggle to address these root causes, I have seen my fellow councilmembers, city staff and partners, and the community, looking for solutions to the issues in Burien. But the fact is, we are part of a larger system and it will take collaboration and concerted effort to change it.”
Mayor Sofia Aragon:
Sofia Aragon mentioned that some dynamics have changed in recent years. Four years ago homelessness was primarily caused by a lack of affordable housing, and people avoided mentioning drug use and homelessness together as they didn’t want to conflate the separate issues. Now however, Aragon believes the recent rise in homelessness has been driven by soaring fentanyl use, so addressing it requires helping people recover from addiction, in addition to working on active prevention with young people. She added that affordability and living wages are also vital aspects of the solution, as are education and workforce training.
Finally, councilmembers were asked what they think the major roadblock to solving homelessness has been, and what has caused it to get worse during most of 2023.
Cydney Moore responded:
“I think one of the biggest roadblocks we are seeing in our community today is an unwillingness to acknowledge this situation as a public health crisis, and recognize that it will not disappear by ignoring it or shuffling it down the road. I believe divisiveness in our community – an unwillingness to come together and collaborate on real solutions – has also been incredibly detrimental. I believe Burien is experiencing growing pains right now. We are not used to having to acknowledge homelessness in direct confrontation the way we have been recently. People have been hiding in alleys and doorways, which has been a point of much consternation for many years, but in this moment we are having to face the reality of our homelessness crisis front and center, and it makes people uncomfortable. It creates a sense of awareness of a problem that people were able to more easily ignore before. Homelessness has been an issue in our community for a long time, and the rate of homelessness has continued to grow. It was inevitable that eventually our community would have to come to terms with that. The question we should be focused on right now is, how are we going to move forward? I believe wasting time bickering gets us nowhere. We need our community, and especially our leaders, to come to the table with a commitment to finding real solutions, taking steps forward, and making progress. We have spent a great deal of time accomplishing nothing but growing a sense of animosity in our community, and I believe our city deserves better.”
Sarah Moore stated:
”The major roadblock is that there is not enough housing and we do not have adequate shelter in Burien for the number of unhoused people living here. In this last winter season, the Severe Weather Shelter identified 100 people seeking services, who were living in Burien at the time when they became homeless. Some things that have exacerbated the situation are the arbitrary timeline the “Condo Association” [Burien Library & City Hall] implemented in February, the immense setbacks that COVID-19 has caused to all local government and nonprofit services, and the continued, sustained inaction of the council as a whole. We needed to address this issue prior to the original sweep, but did not have majority agreement. Sweeps are proven to destabilize people and that is what has happened. We’ve left people with no alternatives but to live in the most unsafe and inconvenient spaces of our city. While I did not support the 2019 ‘no camping in parks’ ordinance, for this very reason, it was essentially successful for quite some time because the Council at the time it was passed specifically allowed for camping in other public spaces, and partnered with our commitment to “Leading with Services” and the partnership between Burien’s Human Services and Police.”
Stephanie Mora stated:
“This is an interesting question. We can’t fix homelessness in under a year. In order for us to do meaningful change, we first need to put the political crap to one side. I personally believe we all do want to help but the political crap, games, and shows have gotten in the way. Our positions are supposed to be non-partisan but instead we have political groups getting together to push what they want. I would love to hear more from people who actually live here instead of the groups they answer to. I can’t say for certain what caused it to get worse this year. This is probably something we will never have a definitive answer to.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: We reached out to the City of Burien for comment on the Consent Order issued against Moreland, and if/when we hear back, we’ll update this post.