Before we get to the “Nickelsville” discussion at tonight’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting – which ended in a way you might not have expected – the rest of the agenda, including a “thank you” to a popular policeman:
That’s HPAC chair Dorsol Plants presenting a certificate of appreciation to Southwest Precinct Community Police Team officer Adonis Topacio. CPT officers (read about them here) are each assigned to proactively work a certain area of the Southwest Precinct’s region, and Officer Topacio’s includes Highland Park, so he’s often at HPAC meetings to present updates (like this one) and listen to concerns. Tonight, he offered some crime stats from the past month and a half in the Highland Park area: Four auto thefts, 13 car prowls, 15 burglaries. Overall, though, he said it had been a relatively quiet summer, but added that police are working to deal with the recent wave of gang graffiti (WSB report here). Also on the agenda tonight, two reps from the White Center Community Development Association with a briefing on what’s going on with their organization – we’ll be writing up those details for partner site White Center Now and will link back here when that’s up. No major updates on the jail-sites issue, meantime, as the process is idling somewhat while Seattle awaits its potential partners to offer more suggested sites; Dan Mullins is trying to organize more Duwamish-corridor business owners to get involved with opposition to the WS sites and said a meeting with at least two City Council members is planned later this fall. Plants warned tonight’s attendees that if HPAC participation (about 20 people were on hand tonight) dwindles out of complacency, it raises the chances unpopular projects like this will turn up in the area. But the latest development at the potential jail site closest to Highland Park, “Nickelsville,” drew what some might consider a surprising reaction – read on to see why:
In case you missed our earlier reports (here and here) – “Nickelsville” is a homeless encampment set up early today at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way (map), which also happens to be one of the two potential jail sites in West Seattle, though organizers told WSB they were unaware of that. They say they need someplace to go because there’s not enough shelter space in the city, and they are angry at the mayor for ordering cleanup sweeps on makeshift encampments that have turned up in spots around the city (including the one at Camp Long that WSB contributing photojournalist Matt Durham reported on earlier this year).
Plants explained the sweep policy at tonight’s meeting – and noted that he works at a shelter. He confirmed that there is often not enough room for everyone who shows up seeking shelter; among other things, he noted, families with children over 9 years of age are hard to place.
He toured “Nickelsville” today and invited two representatives to speak at HPAC, including Anitra Freeman, who talked with us at the camp this afternoon. They talked about how homeless people are in potentially deadly danger when there’s no safe shelter, and discussed a printout of “Nickelsville for Dummies,” which you can read on the “Nickelsville” website.
You might expect a community group to be alarmed by, and upset about, a homeless encampment nearby. But that’s not the tack that HPAC has taken; listen to Plants as he proposed a motion that was passed with only one “no” vote:
Also at the meeting, West Seattle Food Bank board president Pete Spalding, who reminded attendees that things are so rough, organizations like WSFB are dealing with huge demand right now – and many clients are working poor.”
As reported earlier, the city has already given the “Nickelsville” camp 72 hours’ notice to move out; that will end at 5 pm Thursday. Freeman said organizers are going to try to get the right to stay, but if not, will work toward a permanent housing site somewhere; she also said a tent’s been set up for social-services workers to meet with those staying at the camp.
TWO MORE HIGHLAND PARK NOTES: HPAC is planning a community Halloween event starting at 5 pm October 31, more details to come, volunteer help sought; the group meets the fourth Monday of each month, so the next meeting is 7 pm October 27.