Home Letter To The Editor Letter to the Editor: Homeless in Burien

Letter to the Editor: Homeless in Burien

The following is a Letter to the Editor written by Dr. Randy Olson. It is presented as it was written to Burien-News.com:

I attended kindergarten through 12th grade in the Highline School District. 40 years ago, after dental school, I moved my family to Burien, and 20 years ago opened up Town Square Dentistry. Opening my business happened before the Downtown Street Project, the condominium project, the library, and before many restaurants came to Burien. Last summer, as I was walking through Burien on a warm summer night, I saw others walking the streets and enjoying the town. I felt a great vibe and thought that this little city could go in one of two directions.

Because of recent events, many neighbors have reached out to me due to the homeless encampment adjacent to our health facility, expressing that they have decided to change the way they vote–that they want to vote in the way of common sense ideas. We must decide: do we want to be like the cities Kent and Auburn and place “No Camping” policies in Burien? Or do we want to house the homeless from all these areas combined? Do we want policies that allow open drug use and human waste on the streets? Do we want a police force that can enforce those laws? Even if we vote to be the city that houses the adjacent city’s homeless, we should shut down the homeless encampment adjacent to the health facility and end the trespassing on that facility which creates unsanitary conditions.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by KIRO news and stated that the homeless have rights; then, I asked if we should prioritize the homeless rights over the rights and safety of citizens, businesses, and elderly patients. My wife spoke at a Burien city council meeting and told, through her tears, the story of our daughter, who was approached by a homeless man on drugs who sexually assaulted her in front of her one and three-year-old children in a Burien parking lot. This man had been recently arrested for fighting with the police and had many other counts against women on his record. My wife and I now grieve that our daughter and our two grandchildren have since moved across the country. In her speech, my wife asked if homeless’ rights should supersede citizens’ rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights–questions we should all be asking as we cast our next votes.

The Town Square Dentistry employees and I have served the poor domestically and internationally through 10 mission trips over the years. It’s no mystery that we feel great compassion for the poor and homeless, especially in places where there are few opportunities for jobs. We feel an even greater compassion for the homeless in our domestic cities because many of our laws enable the homeless, which prevents them from realizing all the opportunities right here in the land of opportunity. There is no opportunity when one can simply move their belongings from one drug scene to the next. Is this action not the definition of doing the same thing and expecting different results?

I feel the city is responsible for creating this homeless camp next to Town Square Dentistry and realize that they claim that city employees acted on an individual basis. I think this could be open to great legal debate.

I would like to thank the city council for voting to allow this area to be leased to business owners that will allow the homeless camp to be moved. I did see a city vote regarding placing a SaniCan in the area, but despite these efforts, the SaniCan vote was overturned after a city meeting. Hopefully, the city’s vote to lease the land will not somehow be prevented. I think we should give the city a chance to correct their mistakes. Any of us would ask for that. I would like to thank Councilwoman Stephanie Mora, as she has been the only council person or Burien employee who has contacted me personally to ask how we are doing through this process. Her reaching out shows compassion for the citizens and businesses, and concern for the safety of people in Burien.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the nonprofit groups and churches who have been able to get some of the campers in the treatment facilities and shelters; these are worthwhile efforts. Unfortunately, the reality on the street is, that once the campers are removed, their spots are immediately taken by others, which means that encampments will continue to grow and may eventually spread to the sidewalks of one of the most desirable areas in downtown Burien.

I would ask that the camp be immediately moved, and if Burien decides it wants to be the city to house the homeless, let the encampment at least not be next to a health facility performing surgeries with patients who are leaving the facility recovering from anesthesia.

This summer, as you’re walking through the streets of Burien on a warm night, ask yourself which direction you would like to see this little town go. Should we prioritize the rights of the homeless over the safety and rights of Burien citizens? Be thinking about how you want to vote this November and what kind of future you want here.

The Letter to the Editor was submitted to both Burien-News.com and the B-town Blog.

Town Square Dentistry
610 SW 152nd St
Burien, WA 98166

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  1. Thank you for posting this letter. I support Town Square Dentistry efforts to make their business safe for their patients and for the citizens of our community.

  2. I, too have owned a business in Burien for 20+ years, and i have watched sadly, as our great little city is sliding backwards due to the inaction of the city council.
    It is one thing to put forward views of being a humanitarian, but it is altogether another thing to not act at all to solve the homeless issue, apart from moving from one place to another. I do believe, also, that our vote is more powerful than we realize, and we need to vote for the candidates that will work to truly solve the problem, not just provide lip service to the issue. We, the citizens, and business owners of Burien that have worked hard in whatever capability that may be, need a city council, that will honor citizens, and business owners rights, and help the homeless as well. i’m sure other cities have had success, and with some education, we can emulate their success, where all parties can benefit, and improve.

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