Overnight camping ban going into effect in Burien

BURIEN, Wash. — Burien’s new camping ban will go into effect in a matter of hours.

Starting Wednesday night, anyone sleeping or residing on public property from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Previously, tents were lined up outside Burien City Hall. The campers then moved about a block away, and then to several other spaces, bringing the issue to a head for city leadership.

Some people thought the city needed to clear the campers out, while others thought the city needed to do more to help the homeless get services and shelter.

But the city doesn’t have enough shelter space. Officials say no designated spaces exist for single men, youth, or couples. They also say their beds are always full, so some people are turned away.

“The need far exceeds the available resources,” the city said in an online statement.

That statement is key because the camping ban has a major exception: no one can be criminally charged if no overnight shelter space is available.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling said the law does not require shelter spaces to be in Burien city limits, specifically.

If shelter is refused and someone is cited, it’s unclear where they are expected to go.

The law also gives the city manager the ability to set aside areas that can be lawfully used for public camping.

The new ordinance comes after months of debate between city councilmembers, who narrowly passed the ban with a 4-3 vote.