The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (Coalition on Homelessness) –along with three unhoused individuals residing in Burien – filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024 challenging Burien’s Ordinance 827 as “unconstitutional.

Ordinance 827 was passed by the Burien City Council on Oct. 2, 2023, and regulates the ability of individuals to camp overnight on public property. It is a revision of Ordinance 818, initially passed Sept. 25, 2023, which effectively bans homeless individuals from living on any public property at any time. The only exceptions are certain designated, marked areas between the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“However, no such designated areas exist as the City has yet to establish any,” plaintiffs said in a statement.

Represented by the Northwest Justice Project (NJP), the lawsuit charges the City of Burien with violating the Washington Constitution by adopting a vague and almost incomprehensible ordinance “that criminalizes the status of being homeless, inflicts cruel and unusual punishment, and deprives individuals of due process.

The ordinance purports to allow individuals to live on public land when no shelter beds are available. This provision, however, fails to acknowledge the almost complete lack of shelter in Burien and King County as a whole. Shelters located in Burien are routinely full and serve only families with minor children and women without children. Burien lacks sufficient shelter space to house all of its unhoused residents. 

Individuals who violate the Ordinance are guilty of a misdemeanor.

“It shouldn’t be a crime to be human and homeless,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “Burien is better than this. We want to repeal this unjust law that effectively bans homeless individuals from living in Burien. This law is the opposite of helpful.”

“Burien’s ordinance makes it impossible for an unhoused resident of Burien to protect themselves from the elements, prepare food, or exist outside,” said Scott Crain, Statewide Advocacy Counsel at Northwest Justice Project. “Criminalizing the very act of being homeless without any viable refuge is cruel punishment.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: We reached out to the City of Burien for comment, but historically the city does not make statements on pending litigation. If we receive a response, we’ll update this post.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Ordinance infringes on due process rights by granting law enforcement excessive discretion without clear guidelines or a defined permitting process. The city’s actions disrupt the lives of homeless individuals and deny them their right to privacy and freedom of movement.

“This was seen on December 1, 2023, when King County Sheriff’s deputies, who serve as Burien’s contracted police force, informed residents living at a site on Ambaum Blvd SW that they could no longer live there and risked arrest if they stayed,” plaintiffs said. “All residents dispersed and the city removed and disposed of their remaining property.”

Elizabeth Hale, a plaintiff in the suit alongside two other unhoused residents – Alex Hale, and Carlo Paz – criticized the city’s approach, stating: “I just want to be treated like everyone else. We want to be treated as people who have a right to live in this town.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop enforcement of the Ordinance; a declaration that it is unconstitutional; and other relief deemed necessary by the court.

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Burien’s Ordinance comes amid a serious regional and national crisis of insufficient affordable housing and increasing numbers of people who experience homelessness. More than 53,000 King County residents were homeless at some point during 2022.1 The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently reported a 12% increase in people experiencing homelessness over 2022.2 Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released an analysis showing that housing assistance for America’s poorest residents is the lowest it has been in 25 years, despite years of steeply rising rents.3 King County needs an estimated 18,200 additional units of temporary housing and shelter to respond to the unmet housing needs.4

About Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH)
The Coalition on Homelessness is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 and dedicated to education and advocacy on behalf of unhoused individuals residing in King County. The mission of the Coalition is to mobilize its community to challenge systemic causes of homelessness and advocate for housing justice. The Coalition works to change policies, remove barriers, and promote lasting, regional solutions to help ensure everyone has a home.   

About Northwest Justice Project (NJP)
NJP is a non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance and representation to low-income people across Washington State. NJP’s mission is to combat injustice, strengthen communities, and protect human dignity. Its work on behalf of low-income families, individuals, and communities addresses fundamental human needs when confronting issues such as domestic violence, threats to housing, income security, education, health care and employment.



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

5 replies on “Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness sues City of Burien over ‘unconstitutional’ Ordinance 827”

  1. How much you want to bet that these people suing are lifelong homeless and have no intention of working? They want to live for free at taxpayer expense.

    Life isn’t free. You have to work to live

  2. Homelessness is a dire problem and it is my hope that Burien will make a large effort to come up with some ways to alleviate it in our city. Having tents on the Main Street and/or on Ambaum is not an appropriate solution. Homeless people have rights but so do the rest of the people living in the area. I don’t feel very safe any more. Alarming.

  3. Other cities have camping bans. Bellevue, Mercer Island, Edmonds. What is the difference here? Just looking for compare/contrast facts in order to move forward.

  4. The problem is most these people are drug addicts that don’t want help. I used to be one of these people. Until I wanted help and changed, it was always self pity and manipulating liberals to feel sorry for me and “advocate” for me when in reality I just wanted someone where stay so I could use. Rock bottom is usually the only way people learn, especially addicts. What about people who don’t deserve to walk past tents with people getting high in them? It looks like crap in liberal states because they think they’re “helping” people when they’re not – they’re ENABLING them. And I can say that with confidence because I KNOW. Been there done that. They could go to an area where they can stay… but no, they’re SUING… anytime I see the word “sue” I just come to the conclusion that they want money under the false pretense of virtue signaling. Enabling drug addicts (most of the homeless population) and the whole harm reduction thing is doing WAY MORE HARM than good.

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