by Martin Barrett
The city of Burien just keeps making a bad problem worse. For years they allowed camping, drug use, fires, and human trafficking around City Hall, which destroyed lives and effectively took away the library from the people of Burien.
When city leadership finally bowed to public pressure and moved the 15 campers from the library, the leadership impeded the most effective successful groups that were getting the campers into detox, shelters, and permanent housing from taking action. “We had trust relationships with the campers at the library. We could have taken half of them off the street. But no, a city council member and commissioner tell them there is another place they can go and continue to use their drugs”, a very frustrated worker shared.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sofia Aragon, City Council members Cyndey Moore, Hugo Garcia, and Sara Moore pled the lie that there is no solution except the County. They ask for more spending on the programs that have created the present inhumane situation. Council member Kevin Schilling, virtue signaling, complains the churches, the very ones who have dealt effectively with the mess our city government has made, are not doing enough. Jimmy Matta stays above the chaos, not willing to risk disappointing his benefactor, Dow Constantine, who has decided Burien is the King County destination for all things complicated and broken. Only City Councilwoman Stephanie Mora presses the city to engage with those effectively delivering immediate solutions.
So where has this led us? Cyndey Moore, whom several tent campers report gave them her official City Council card when directing campers to the toxic dog-pooping site, has aggravated the problem. This new camp on 6th and 152nd has grown, as of the morning of May 3, to 30 plus tents, many with multiple occupants. This number significantly increased when City Manager Adolfo Bailon agreed to Moore’s demand and put a portapotty at the site two weeks ago.
Cydney Moore’s City of Burien business card was passed out on the night of the 30th
Since the tent camp moved from city hall to the dog poop lot, a team of church and faith-based nonprofits has gone to the new camp daily. One even spent three nights in a tent to better understand what was happening. This team includes a mental health professional and folks with 17 years of experience in this work. In the last two weeks, the team has put two campers into detox, two into shelters with recovery plans, five housing appointments, obtained driver’s licenses for 3, 1 EBT, three phones, 1 Child Protective Services meeting to help with getting kids into housing, five appointments for unhoused folks, and gathered information from several campers for immediate follow-up, case management, and encouragement until campers state readiness to move forward. We are grateful that despite the disrespect shown to them by the city, the team members continue to do effective work. But they are in a losing battle. They cannot keep up due to city policy which grows the problem. The number of tents and severe drug and safety issues in the camp are increasing daily. The team reports the need for the campers to have comprehensive support and genuine relationships of trust.
“This is very concerning!” stated a worker at the camp.”No one deserves to live in these conditions; these suffering individuals need immediate and intentional help in an environment void of drugs, human trafficking concerns, and basic safety issues. For every human removed, it seems city policy brings two more, with no capacity to support or solve,” continued the camp worker.
The team has seen it all. And what they see is the city’s total disregard for the conditions the people in the camps live in.
On Friday, the team spent time helping a desperate mother find her 17-year-old daughter, taken by an adult man. This 17-year-old has likely been trafficked or, at the very least, is highly vulnerable to trafficking. The mother of the 17-year-old stated it had been reported to her that her daughter was seen in these encampments. As of Friday, family members are visiting Burien encampments to find individuals possibly being trafficked. This, explains the workers, exemplifies the dangerous threat of human trafficking this encampment fosters.
According to campers, the Burien encampment is known as a new “open-air drug camp,” inviting more addicts. The campsite provides appeal and access to drugs. The team witnesses drug deals frequently.
Needles on the ground at Camp Moore on May 3rd
This situation would have been resolved if the city had supported initial efforts by the team to move unhoused campers from the library. When faced with few options, many street people choose the hard road of healing. But Moore provided the unloving and easy way, pointing them to a new space where they may continue their self-destruction. What began as an opportunity to show genuine compassion has degenerated into a complex mental health, drug, trafficking, crime, and inhumanely deplorable situation.
If effective, serious action is not taken, this catastrophic wildfire, which highlights failed city policy, will continue to create more problems. Since the issue deals with the dignity and welfare of the vulnerable, this profound sign of the city of Burien’s leadership’s failure to effectively solve this issue from its beginning is unacceptable.
One the the residents came up to a child on the sidewalk across the street and SCREAMED AT HER. A very young child….there have been many such incidents to residents that live in the condo and apartment buildings since they have moved to the dog park corner. The Burien City council should be very ashamed of themselves. The citizens of Burien deserve a better city council than what they currently have.
As someone who has lived in tents as an addict, consequences are required. I never would have cleaned up and contributed to society without jail. I hated it then, but I accept now that I would never have gotten better without it. Change rarely happens without pain, and people rarely seek pain. We need to hold these grown adults accountable if we want them to act any different than they do now.
I agree, I used to work for an addiction recovery program, and the vast majority of people in the program ultimately got sober because they were arrested. It is not compassionate to let people flounder in their addiction. Addiction, by definition, is the loss of choice, so the truth is people are not going to make the right choices themselves, they have lost this freedom, and now need real help!