The joy of opening 95 new homes in Burien

DESC leaders express the joy we feel at opening our newest permanent supportive housing.

BURIEN, Wash. (May 23, 2024)–We’re welcoming tenants into our new Bloomside permanent supportive housing, the first DESC housing built outside of the city of Seattle! At full capacity, 95 people living with disabilities and experiencing long-term homelessness, will have brand new homes with full wrap-around services in Burien.

We celebrated the grand opening of Bloomside on May 23 with remarks from King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, DESC Executive Director Daniel Malone, President and CEO of the King County Housing Authority Robin Walls and Acting Director of DCHS Kelly Rider, followed by an open house and public tours of this beautiful building. DESC Director of Organizational Equity Rhonda Banchero was our emcee.

Daniel’s remarks opened the program.

“Good afternoon. There is nothing better than being able to change someone’s circumstances from homeless to permanently housed.  Today is the 17th time I have had the deeply moving experience of being able to celebrate the creation of new homes for DESC’s most vulnerable clients. The first time was 30 years ago this month when we opened DESC’s first permanent supportive housing facility called the Union Hotel in Pioneer Square. We built it in Pioneer Square because back then that’s where people experiencing homelessness were concentrated in our region.

“There has been a lot of change over these past 30 years. In May of 1994 the Sonics had just completed the regular season with the best record in the NBA, a feat they haven’t achieved since perhaps mostly due to the fact that they ceased to exist. But I keep being told that they are coming back. Let’s go.

“Another thing that changed is that homelessness began to appear much more significantly in places outside downtown Seattle. Burien is one of the many places that have had far too many people struggling to live without a stable home. As we saw this happening in places like Burien, we determined as an organization that the kind of housing we know how to create and operate is needed in more of these places, because that’s where the people are. I appreciated being able to walk around Burien during the day of New Year’s Eve in 2020 with Burien Police Chief Ted Boe. He showed me many locations where people were living outdoors for long periods, and what kinds of needs some of those individuals seemed to have.

“One thing that hasn’t changed over the past 30 years, or really since pre-historic times, is that everyone needs a safe, stable place to live. One thing we know from the data is that the best predictor of continued homelessness is how long someone has already been experiencing homelessness. And the people that tend to experience homelessness the longest are those with the toughest obstacles to overcome, like serious and persistent mental illness, longstanding substance addiction and complex medical problems.  Imagine having a combination of those conditions and living on the street. That’s a recipe for struggle, community isolation and worsening symptoms. It used to be thought that the harder things got for someone, the more he or she would develop motivation to change and we simply had to let those problems run their course. But we saw over and over again that the opposite happened, and situations turned hopeless and chronic. A change of mindset and some experimentation over the last 30 years brought to us the realization that support and care are what makes the real difference in situations like these, and the foundation for providing genuine support is housing.

“This is the Housing First philosophy, and it has proven to be far and away the most effective tool for ending chronic homelessness.  Not only do people want this kind of housing but once housed their lives improve in many ways.  Health improves, stress declines, use of crisis services lessens, and finally, after years of extreme marginalization, people again have a shot at participating more fully in the life of the community.

“So that was the proposal we brought to Burien.  Let’s create homes for many of the people in the community who don’t have them.

“When we began the process of developing this building, we embarked on a series of meetings with community members through information sessions DESC held, through formal City of Burien planning commission and City Council meetings, through invited appearances at regular and ad hoc community and business groups, through tours of existing DESC facilities, and through countless individual conversations. Many people had questions for us, and some people were pretty unhappy about what we were proposing, but the welcome and support we received from so many people from the Burien community was truly touching and inspiring. To everyone who engaged with us through your questions, your notes of support, your testimony to City Council, and your advocacy, thank you so much.  We are delighted to call Burien home, and can’t wait to support 95 Burien community members with safe and supportive permanent homes.”