Burien Faces Lawsuit Over Controversial Public Camping Ban: Residents Fight for Their Rights

BURIN, Wash. – A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Burien in King County Superior Court over its public camping ban. The lawsuit was brought by the Northwest Justice Project on behalf of three unhoused Burien residents and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness. The complaint argues that Ordinance 818, which prohibits camping on public property between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., unfairly targets and displaces unhoused individuals.

According to the lawsuit, Elizabeth and Alex Hale, who are plaintiffs in the case, were among the many people who found refuge in a median off Ambaum after being repeatedly displaced from downtown to other areas. The couple was swept from the median on December 1 without being offered shelter or housing.

The city had indicated that it would offer housing or shelter to those affected by the camping ban. However, there are no available shelters within Burien. Council members recently met to discuss the possibility of a shelter, but no decision has been made.

The lawsuit argues that the camping ban is unconstitutional and criminalizes the status of unhoused individuals. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the courts that the ordinance cannot be enforced.

The case is set to go to trial in January 2025. In the meantime, the Northwest Justice Project and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness continue to advocate for better housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness.

Burien city leaders declined to comment on the pending litigation.

It is clear that the lawsuit against the city of Burien highlights the ongoing challenges faced by unhoused individuals and the lack of available resources to support them within the city. The outcome of this case could have ramifications for other cities grappling with similar issues across the country.