By Victoria Barrett
As a graduate of Highline High School and lover of Burien, I would like to provide a few observations as a licensed mental health counselor regarding the current homelessness crisis in Burien.
I specialize in trauma, and I know one thing for certain: trauma is not an easy fix.
Many individuals experiencing homelessness are survivors of trauma and/or may find their current homeless experience traumatic.
I attended the Burien City Council meeting Monday, April 10th, regarding the homelessness crisis. My observation is that the proposed solutions by the city of Burien do not take into account the complexity of trauma within the homeless experience.
As human beings, we are “wired” to connect. When trauma disrupts adaptive ways of relating and connecting, disfunction arises. Trauma deeply inhibits functional ways of relating to self, others, and the environment.
When relationships wound or traumatize, only corrective, healthy relationships can heal. Healing from trauma never happens in isolation. Recovery operates within a system of healthy relationships. Our homeless neighbors who have endured trauma need not just housing solutions but relational solutions.
Solutions have to be relational, or they will not be effective. At Monday’s meeting, the City of Burien did not present or prioritize relational (and therefore trauma-informed) solutions.
I observed that the theme of the conversations at Monday’s meeting focused on logistics regarding a temporary housing solution. Logistics are important but are most effectively delivered within a relational context. Logistics need to support comprehensive solutions – logistics are not the solution. Logistics worked out within the context of relationships seem to be the most effective.
From my perspective, this current crisis was discussed simply as a housing issue, not a human-being relational issue. I observed this because the agenda lacked focus collaborative efforts with key community actors in Burien at Monday’s meeting.
Homelessness is not just a housing or economic issue. While those factors are important, sustained recovery will need to prioritize relational and face-to-face solutions.
The solution to homelessness is complex because homelessness is complex. The solution involves communal, time-saturated relationships.
To respond to the current homelessness issue effectively, it is strongly advised that the City of Burien consider a robust, trauma-informed response that values and collaborates with the primary community actors in Burien (churches, non-profits, neighbors, and business owners).
It is also advised that the city of Burien consider how it can empower influential community actors to create restorative relational healing systems as a trauma-informed response.
It is advised that vital logistics regarding shelter be discussed within a relational context that draws on the expertise of local community members.
It is advised that the complexity of homelessness is honored within the framework of relational solutions.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMCH)
Hope Place, UGM Women and Children’s Shelter and Recovery Program