‘It’s incredibly frustrating’: Burien homeless camp moved third time over lack of resources

BURIEN, Wash. — Burien’s homeless issue continues with the City clearing an encampment from Dottie Harper Park. It’s the third time the campers were moved, the second was last week. 

The campers were first at Burien City Hall but moved a few months ago. An encampment then formed on a lot at 6th Avenue and 152nd Street but an animal hospital, Burien Cares, leased the land from the city and cleared it. That happened Thursday. 

The people then moved to a small lot next to a playground at Dottie Harper Park. Then police posted signs that said campers need to vacate by 12 p.m. June 6. Burien’s Mayor, Sofia Aragon said without a major resource, there’s not a lot the city can do right now.

“Emergency housing is a concept that is really needed but it’s just not available,” said Mayor Aragon.

The lack of emergency housing has forced Daniel Hartz, and the rest of the encampment to move for the third time.

“[We’re] stressed out a little bit but we expected it to come through, so we were kind of ready. But we don’t really know where we’re going yet though,” said Hartz.

He talked with KIRO 7 before he moved from the bigger encampment on 6th Avenue and 152nd Street.

Since Dottie Harper Park is a park, police watched the breakdown.

“The cops came and put the notices up so I don’t know if it’s the city or the parks people cause supposedly this area wasn’t supposed to be part of the park but they’re saying it is now but I’m not sure,” said Hartz.

A Burien City Council member told the campers, the section they were in wasn’t park property, but the City said she was wrong. REACH social worker, Stephanie Tidholm was at Thursday’s and Tuesday’s encampment clearings and said nothing has changed in those few days.

“We still don’t have any beds, we don’t have any resources, we don’t have any spots that’s been allotted by the city,” said Tidholm. “It’s incredibly frustrating, it’s frustrating and it just feels very redundant.”

Mayor Aragon said she feels frustrated too. She also said while there’s no answer today, they are working on some solutions. But those solutions are still a few years out.

“Last night we talked about there might be some parcels of land that are close that there may be a shelter developed. There’s a local church that might be willing to look at converting and expanding their space to accommodate a shelter but we just need to hear what those plans are,” said Mayor Aragon.

Mayor Aragon also said the city has approved four models but those projects are years away as well. The city council member who told the campers to go to Dottie Harper also told KIRO 7 she plans to ask the council to accept $1 million from the county to move forward with using a city-owned lot for an encampment. The city also said the no camping ordinance requires people to tear down their tents, but they’re still allowed to be in the park until it closes.