Photo by Adam Thomas

Wealth & Poverty Review Enforcement Works

A compassionate policy is reducing street homelessness in Burien, Washington. Originally published at City Journal

Burien, Washington, a working-class city of 50,000 near Seattle, has adopted a new approach to homelessness. Like all cities in the Puget Sound region, Burien has struggled with chronic homelessness, addiction, and public camping in recent years. But this spring, after increasing public outcry over encampments and their trash and discarded needles, the city’s leadership embarked on an ambitious new program to enforce the law against such public sites.

The initiative began by chance. Last winter, local business owner Martin Barrett, brainstorming ways to improve the city’s business climate, hired an organizer to walk door-to-door asking small-business owners their concerns. The organizer spoke with more than 100 owners, representing all of Burien’s racial and ethnic backgrounds—the city is 50 percent nonwhite — and their response was resounding: the homelessness crisis was dramatically affecting their businesses and sense of safety.

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Christopher Rufo

Former Director, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Christopher Rufo is former director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS, Netflix, and international television, including his latest film, America Lost, that tells the story of three "forgotten American cities.” Christopher is currently a contributing editor of City Journal, where he covers poverty, homelessness, addiction, crime, and other afflictions. Christopher is a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, and has appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, HLN, and FOX News.