On Oct. 2, 2023, the Burien City Council adopted Ordinance 827 (originally named Ordinance 818), which went into effect on Nov. 1, and regulates the ability of individuals to sleep overnight on public property.
A local group calling itself The Burien Outdoor Solidarity Project (BOSP) spent the night outside Burien City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 to protest against the city’s “unlawful public camping” ordinance, which they say is aimed directly at our unhoused neighbors.
“The law explicitly targets tents, sleeping bags, and other basic survival resources,” BOSP said in a statement. “At the same time, Burien has not only refused to provide a safe place for unhoused people to camp but has also refused to accept $1M in funding from the county to provide shelter as the camping ban went into effect.”
Protestors also want Discover Burien to cut ties with The More We Love, a controversial group it says has “a history of lying to and harming unhoused people” (read our previous coverage of that here).
Local activist Kelsey Vanhee added this:
“My goal in participating in the Burien Overnight Solidarity Project was to make it clear that I do not agree with ordinance 818, and to make sure our unsheltered and unhoused neighbors know that not everyone in this community supports what is being done to them.
“We met several unhoused individuals who came over to share food, or who accepted the blankets, gloves, and other mutual aid supplies we brought to share. Listening to them and understanding how the ordinance will affect their lives showed me how much harder it will be to be homeless in Burien after enforcement begins.
“I understand the voters clearly expressed their support for the ordinance in electing more conservatives to city council – I sincerely hope that however people feel about ordinance 818 they recognize the acute needs of our unhoused community during the coming winter and sign up to volunteer at the Severe Weather Shelter, the Sunnydale village, Alimentando al Pueblo, Transform Burien (or another org that is meaningful to them.)
“Our city council has not stepped up and so I’m grateful that we do have community- and faith-based organizations who are. There are lots of ways to stay involved and I encourage everyone – especially those who feel fearful about the prospect of unhoused people in or near their neighborhoods – to lean in and engage more, rather than let that fear make our community more isolated and divided.
“I’m grateful to everyone who came out or showed support for the Overnight Solidarity Project and we hope to continue gathering and finding ways to connect our community – housed and unhoused- to make Burien a better and more welcoming place for all.”
“We would like to thank the organizers and all those who attended the protest for speaking out against the ‘camping ban’ in Burien,” said Cydney Moore in her role as President of the Burien Community Support Coalition.
“We know this policy creates new risks for our unhoused population already in crisis; the fact that it is taking effect right as the weather starts getting colder only compounds the danger and cruelty of this ordinance. Sweeps have historically been associated with increased risk to those being displaced with nowhere to go, including increased risk of death, loss of important documents (such as I.D.) and survival gear, and loss of contact with their support network such as case managers and family members. Sweeps disrupt any sense of stability people may be trying to build, making it harder for them to access appointments with care providers or find/keep employment. We urge our community to continue advocating for city leaders to repeal this policy, and focus on real solutions – not pushing unhoused people into more dangerous circumstances with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.”
Below are specific demands made by the BOSP:
- Recognize that being poor is not a crime and repeal Ordinance No. 818, titled “Unlawful Public Camping.”
- Accept King County’s offer of $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and use it to provide a safe and clean camping space for its unhoused residents—and specifically one not under the Sea-Tac flight path.
- Provide basic garbage removal, toilets, hygiene facilities, and food assistance to all who need it.
- Depoliticize Discover Burien and cut ties with the More We Love, the latter a group with a history of lying to and harming unhoused people.
- Stop all “sweeps” of homeless encampments.
- Get serious and start working on a longer-term solution that gets everyone inside safely.
“The high cost of housing affects everyone,” BOSP said. “We are all in this together. Let’s stop the cruelty and start working on solutions for all of us. A better world is possible.”
Below are photos from the protest courtesy BOSP (click arrow or swipe to view slideshow):