Last night, hours before Highland Park Action Committee chair Carolyn Stauffer sent HPAC’s official letter to the Mayor and City Council regarding an ultimatum on the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville,” we received the following open letter from Stauffer’s predecessor, Dan Mullins. We didn’t get to publish it overnight because of breaking news – but here it is now:
An open letter,
My name is Dan Mullins and I live in Highland Park in West Seattle and Im the former Chair of the Highland Park Action Committee.
The neighbors in our area have worked for years to keep our little community a clean and safe place for kids and families.
I have always felt compassion for the folks in the giant homeless encampment named Nicklesville, less than 1/2 mile from my home, but things have gotten out of hand and something needs to change sooner than later.
It’s been a steady progression for 2 years now, from the little pink tents and muddy conditions to what we have now.
Stacks of pallets, plywood shacks and gates with guards, rats, urine, litter, its like a post apocalyptic novel down there.
While I sat at the stoplight recently I observed people unloading plywood and construction supplies and there were young girls with signs, begging for money at 3 of the 4 corners of E. Marginal and Highland Park Way.
The 4th corner had 4 or 5 young men sitting on the ground smoking and waiting.
My neighborhood is filled with people who don’t take the bus to work anymore, because of the rough, intimidating crowd constantly coming and going from Nickelsville.
I’m told that If you do drugs you can’t stay there, and I commend them for that, but where do you go if you are a trouble maker or a meth head and get kicked out by the Nickelsville bosses?
They go across the street, and into the woods, adjacent to our backyards, where our kids play.
Recently three of my neighbors had their cars vandalized, two with smashed windows and numerous neighbors homes have been burglarized.
I have heard normally rational people talk crazy about taking action into their own hands and vigilante justice.
I imagine them to be idle threats but it demonstrates how angry people are getting in this community.
I know it’s a complicated situation and a public relations nightmare for the city, but it’s reaching a point where our elected officials need to act.
This self governed community can only last so long before it self destructs and I feel that the inhabitants of Nickelsville and the neighbors will all lose.
My fear is that the solution will only come when there is a murder or a young woman is raped.
It has gotten so bad that, in my work as a real estate agent, I have heard people say, they will not look at homes in Highland Park because of the Nickelsville problem.
This blue collar neighborhood has always been compassionate and open minded and we have invited Nickelsville organizers to speak at community meetings, I have personally donated food and bathroom supplies, but people here are past their breaking point.
Something needs to be done about this illegal population and they need your help to move to somewhere safe for them but with less impact on their surrounding community.
There are mentally ill and chronically homeless, runaway kids, substance abusers and all manner of folks on the fringe who need help, but their leaders have created a private City-State, with their own hammer wielding police force, deciding who can stay and who needs to go, and if necessary they will punish all of the individuals by withholding toilet facilities for the sins of the few.
I was passing by today as I do every day and I know they are scrambling to clean the place up because they are aware of all the bad press about them lately and their leaders are gearing up for a fight.
I feel that the City’s lack of conviction to do something serious about finding a real solution for Nickelsville is mainly because it lays between two of Seattle’s poorest neighborhoods, South Park and Highland Park, and that makes it seem easy to sweep this illegal community under the carpet.
Let’s be honest, this would never be allowed in Queen Anne, Magnolia, Fremont, Ballard, anywhere else than a lower income community.
When I talk to people in those other neighborhoods, they don’t even know about Nickelsville.
I understand that Food Lifeline, a service that helps thousands of marginalized folks yearly by distributing food to the needy, wants to buy the WA State and DOT owned property for their new facility but the illegal encampment has become a major roadblock in their plans.
The city must not let this opportunity slip away.
All people deserve a little humanity, clean water and a place to lay their head and that is one of the reasons we vote and pay our taxes to build roads and schools and public assistance for those who need it.
But this illegal community, which is bound to swell in size as the warmer weather approaches must go and it must go now.