Burien’s Sunnydale Village was a ‘safe community’ for over 60 homeless people. Now it’s gone
Dozens of unhoused people packed up their belongings in the rain this week in the parking lot of Burien’s Oasis Home Church. The camp, called Sunnydale Village, was home to at least 60 people who now have nowhere to go.
Rain pelted down on the blue and tan tarps that cover the tents at Sunnydale Village on Monday. Residents in soaked raincoats carried laundry baskets full of clothes and food to grocery carts or the trunks of cars. After three months living on wood pallets in the Oasis Home Church parking lot, it was time to leave.
“I was excited thinking when we moved it's gonna be nice and sunny to be able to get everything out without getting it soaked,” said Carlos “Los” Paz, who lives in a tall, blue tent at one end of the village, “and of course this morning it started to rain.”
Paz moved to the village in early December after living in a large encampment on Ambaum Boulevard Southwest in Burien. He and a group of friends moved to Sunnydale together after getting their stuff stolen on the sidewalk.
“It is disheartening, but in the move here, things became a lot more hopeful,” he said, looking across a village of tents.
“We have, at this point, 65 residents, five dogs, and one cat that live here,” said Cydney Moore, president of the Burien Community Support Coalition, the group that runs Sunnydale, “We do not have a new location and most of these people have nowhere to go.”
The coalition signed a three-month lease with the church at the beginning of November and Moore said they would honor that agreement. She said it’s been a “fantastic” relationship with Oasis and the pastor had given them a letter of recommendation to help find a new location.
But after months of contacting churches in the area, Moore said none would take in the tent camp.
“Some, you know, are very supportive of us but don't have the space available on their land or they have other projects in the works,” she said.
Paz and the other villagers have very few options in Burien, which has almost no shelter beds available. Living in a tent is especially difficult since the city passed a ban on camping in parks last year. The Burien Community Support Coalition opened Sunnydale around the same time the ban was being enforced.
“I don't really want to leave my group, my community,” Paz said. “We’ll see what I end up having to do, but I'm hoping we can stay together.”
At a Burien City Council meeting Monday night, Moore updated the Council on the situation at Sunnydale. She told council members she and other advocates would give out tents to homeless people in Burien until the Council opens a shelter for them to sleep.
Last year the Council approved a temporary shelter pilot program, but it’s unclear when it will open.
Paz said he might head north to Seattle to find a shelter but he doesn’t want to leave his group of friends in Burien. Even though he knew it was temporary, Sunnydale was a stable home for Paz for the past few months.
“Without this, that's kind of a step backwards,” he said. "Without a safe, sturdy spot, I’m not entirely sure what's going to come next.”