Oasis Home Church in Burien hosted a townhall on the sanctioned encampment being set up behind the property. It started off with a presentation and Q&A but quickly devolved into a shouting match, with several people walking out before the program was over.
The insults and accusations were all directed at Burien councilmember Cydney Moore.
“I’m not going to answer, when everyone talks over each other,” said Moore as questions were shouted from the audience.
Moore is the president of non-profit Burien Community Support Coalition which is expected to provide services to the homeless on site.
Neighbors made it loud and clear that they don’t want this encampment near their families or kids.
“This is not a brand-new issue,” said one neighbor.
There’s an overwhelming feeling that this project is being rammed through without the community’s blessing.
“You people took it upon yourselves, you slipped it under the door so no one would be here, no one would be aware of it,” said another neighbor.
The main concerns are about public safety and open-air drug use spilling into the surrounding streets.
“We talked to law enforcement last week,” said a man at the back of the room. “They did not know about the encampment.”
Moore and her team were also accused of being under-prepared to handle the responsibilities of running an encampment.
One woman accused the team, saying, “you don’t have a concrete program.” Another neighbor asked what company the security needs would be outsourced to.
Several audience members asked about cost, but Moore did not have answers. “It sounds like you just have a bunch of ideas, but what is the budget, what is the total cost for this?” asked an audience-member.
There is also a concern about potential conflicts of interest, as Moore is a sitting Burien councilmember.
Moore would not say if she would recuse herself from voting on any issues related to this encampment.
The reality is that the church is private property, and pastor Mark Miller says they just need a permit from the city to operate. “We’ve invested church money,” he added.
Miller is trying to be a calming presence in this controversial debate, saying, “I understand your fears and concerns.”
Organizers emphasize this will be a temporary sanctioned encampment, operating for three months.
Security will be on site 24/7, and no drug use, no weapons, and no sex offenders allowed.
“We have a limitation imposed by the church of thirty tents,” said Moore.
But Moore would not say if there would be a cap on the number of people allowed to stay.
Doors were supposed to open on November 6th, but the opening has now been delayed to sometime later this month. And the church is still working on getting that permit to operate.
If the encampment does spiral out of control, Pastor miller says he has full discretion to end this social experiment at any time. “We’re going to let compassion and love rule.”