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Burien Group Pushes Sanctioned Encampment Without Community Approval

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Some neighbors in Burien say that what is about happen in their city is an unholy alliance.
Oasis Home Church on Burien’s South 150th Street, is in the process of opening up it’s back yard to a “temporary sanctioned encampment.”

Sherman Wickre and his wife Janet live right next to the church. 

“We’re going to have drug addicts and thieves,” Wickre tells me.

They want the homeless to get help, but not in their backyard. 

Oasis is partnering up with a service provider called “Burien community support coalition.” 

Thirty tents will be set up for the homeless, and those currently staying at the Ambaum Blvd. camp could be moving in. There’s a sense of urgency to move quickly since the city’s no-camping ban went into effect on November 1st. 

According to an email from the group, the church doors will open on November 6th for no more than 90 days, and there will be a strict code of conduct. 

That means no drug use, no weapons, and no sex offenders. 24-hour security will also be on site which will have quiet hours from 9pm to 9am. 

The location is just a couple minutes from HighLine high school. 

The coalition says the goal is to eventually move everyone who stays there into housing. 

Danny Garcia lives across the street from the church and is concerned that this situation will attract open air drug use and more crime.

“I’m worried about my family and my safety, you know?” Garcia tells me.

Records show that Burien Community Support Coalition was formed last summer as a non-profit by Charles Schaefer. 

Schaefer is the disgraced former Burien planning commissioner who was removed from his position earlier this year for telling homeless people they could camp on city-owned property instead of directing them to shelters or detox centers. 

“I did help some of them move their things, if they wanted to move to a piece of property,” Schaefer has told me.

City councilmember Cydney Moore is also part of the coalition.  

Aside from the public safety concerns, neighbors say they weren’t consulted or given enough time to process the news. 

A notice went up last Friday, and the community meeting was held the following Sunday. 

But according to Washington state law, a city must receive notice four days in advance, making this a violation.

Even councilmembers Jimmy Matta and Stephanie Mora say they only learned about the church encampment this week. 

“I haven’t been brought up to speed on this,” says Matta. Mora adds, “I’m really surprised that they are essentially going over the city’s head.” 

So, I confronted the group as they were setting up.

Councilmember moore declined to comment…

Burien city council candidate Daniel martin got in my face.

And Schaffer stood in the back recording the entire encounter.

Lead pastor Mark Miller eventually came out and answered a few of my questions.

“There are more conversations that we’re having, there are more conversations with the community that’s coming,” says Miller.

It’s unclear exactly when this sanctioned encampment will now open since Matta says there are still some lingering issues. 

“First of all, there hasn’t been a permit, it hasn’t gone through the public process,” councilmember Matta tells me.

Neighbors are demanding more transparency and asking city leaders to get involved. 

“Are they going to come back and ask the city for funding?” asks councilmember Mora. “We don’t have the resources for it, we don’t have the funding, we don’t have the police to be able to respond to as many crimes as we’re currently having.”

Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.