Each candidate running for the Burien City Council Aug. 1, 2023 Primary Election was asked ten questions by The B-Town Blog, covering topics like their reasons for wanting to serve on the council, what they think about current issues in the city, and what kind of solutions they have.
The following responses to the third question in our series are from the candidates for Position 4, which is currently held by Kevin Schilling, who is running for reelection.
NOTE: Candidates are listed in order as per the King County Elections online Voters Guide website. Photos and links are to/from each candidate’s profile on the same website.
What are your thoughts on conducting sweeps of homeless encampments? How would you balance the rights and needs of people experiencing homelessness and those of other residents and businesses in Burien?
”Sweeps’ is one term for the practice of removing folks from public property who have set up long-lasting, unauthorized tent encampments. I don’t think these should be joyful occasions. I’ve worked hard to increase the availability of services for Burien’s unhoused populations.
“However, unlike my opponents, I believe it’s sometimes necessary to coordinate removal of illegal tent encampments, while encouraging acceptance of shelter and services.”
“Sweeps of homeless encampments are ineffective and perpetuate the challenges faced by already marginalized communities. We need to care for all people and create a system in which we all can thrive. Our unhoused neighbors need to be respected and treated as individuals.
“The homelessness crisis is complex, including some who have mental health and/or substance abuse issues. When present, both issues need to be addressed. Sweeps enhance the instability of the individuals and their lack of access to resources and continue to harm our community.
“The unhoused need to be offered opportunities where they receive housing while they work to achieve sobriety. We need to provide rehabilitation programs in which they may earn wages along with workforce development programs. This gives these marginalized community members an opportunity to create a better life for themselves and contribute to the community’s economic growth.
“As the unhoused and the marginalized complete their workforce development programs, internships can be created where they can work as part of the community to rebuild and increase Burien’s economy. As the residents and business owners work in concert with one another, we will rebuild our economies and uplift Burien.”
“For thousands of years, the Salish Sea has been nurturing and supporting the life of all the residents who live near her waters.
“Sweeps represent a failure of imagination and a failure of hospitality at a fundamental level. Our country’s, and our region’s, history of sweeps, from Native removal to racially restrictive covenants to so-called vagrancy laws is nothing to be proud of. We don’t “run people out of town” based on their skin color or religious beliefs or gender expression, anymore. But in trying to disappear unhoused people without criminalizing homelessness, this Council has evoked some painful and dangerous history.
“We cannot keep saying no to our community without something to say yes to. I have watched in dismay as this council has said no to public sanitation, no to designating a site of last resort, no to a citizen that knows how to read public records, no to even considering King County’s offer of $1.3m no-strings-attached funding for secure, emergency tiny home shelters, anywhere in the city – no to every option presented. Instead the status quo has persisted for months, which is satisfying to no one – people sandwiched into narrow strips of public easements between walkway and roadway and business space.
“Almost any other option would have been less chaotic, less harmful.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to read answers to this same question from candidates for Burien City Council, Position No. 2.
Next up in our 2023 election series – we ask Burien City Council candidates: