By Martin Barrett
In the ten days leading up to clearing the tent encampment at Burien City Hall on March 31, a group of four churches, several nonprofit organizations specializing in homeless outreach and help, plus a few Burien neighbors came together to serve. Their objective was to help break the cycle of addiction and brokenness. The plan was that a temporary detox center, using the natural process involving no medical or chemical element, would be set up. This detoxifying opens the door for addicts to enter facilities providing long-term healing. The project was named Project 614.
Unfortunately, the plan was scuttled two days before the encampment was to be cleared, by city officials requiring various regulations be met. The timeframe was unworkable.
Not to be deterred, the coalition of workers pivoted. If the homeless had to be removed from their facility for the night and put back on the street as per the requirements communicated by the city, then they would run as a day center Friday and Saturday. The day center provided showers, clean clothes, and hot meals. The day center had workers listen to their stories and pray for them if they would receive prayer (which most do). There was even a licensed mental health therapist from a womens’ shelter.
On the two days of March 31 and April 1, a total of 16 of the City Hall tent campers came to the Day Center at Hope Church. They had a hot meal, showered, received clean clothes, had someone listen to their story, and were offered a better way forward. The outcome was encouraging; while 12 returned to the street, four were placed in detox programs that day.
In the days leading up to the Project 614 launch, the team established relationships with 7 other individuals who were highly interested in the proposed detox offer on March 31 but wanted help immediately. These 7 were removed from Burien and placed in various regional programs best fitting their need.
Overall, in the last 2-3 weeks, the coalition has helped 23 people living on the streets. Eleven of those neighbors were placed in healing programs where they can have a chance to become free from the tyranny of addictions, places where they can receive professional mental health.
When asked what the coalition learned, Joseph Riverson said, “What we have learned is that without a vision, the people perish, as Proverbs 29:18 tells us. The Lord gave the vision and provided the leadership grace and strength to carry it out. As leadership shared the vision, others could also see it, and they were able to join in. A whole coalition of friends motivated by the love of Jesus came together,” said Riverson, who, along with Hope Christian Pastor Seth Thomas, headed up the project.
When asked what the motivation was, “For us, the motivation is clear, we believe that every person living on the street is created in the image of God and that each one can be freed from their addiction and mental brokenness by the love and power of God. We believe every one can be restored to the person God created them to be,” added Riverson.
“The reality was that on March 31, the campers would be moved off the city hall land. With nowhere to go, the vision was that the church could open its doors and receive them for a shower, clean clothes, good food, and neighborly love, all in an environment without vices. On the streets, they are in “flight-or-fight” mode. Here they could be surrounded by love and a path to long-term healing and really relax. They would be prayed for and hear about God’s love for them and the power to be free, ” an enthusiastic Riverson added.
“The team believes it was a great success. We have learned a lot and look forward to continuing to pursue our homeless brothers and sisters with the love of Christ, looking forward to what lies ahead,” added Riverson.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE: I've seen a lot in my day covering the region's homeless crisis. But nothing like this encounter in #Burien Monday night. After angry neighbors and biz owners packed the council meeting to BLAST city leaders for allowing another encampment to pop up along the… pic.twitter.com/kpu1Qcyow3
— Jonathan Choe Journalist (Seattle) (@choeshow) April 5, 2023