2:10 PM: If you click the “play” button above, it’ll take you to the live feed from City Hall, where the City Council’s Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee is starting its meeting, with the agenda including an item on the “Nickelsville” site. More to come.
2:18 PM: Public comment is beginning. Those who speak can address anything coming up on the agenda. The first two speakers voiced support for SHARE, the organization that runs shelters around the city. The third, Trace De Garmo, is speaking specifically to Nickelsville: “If you want to speed up our move now, please temporarily provide us with water and electricity hookups.” He says they want two religiously controlled sites, for up to two years, to house up to 200 people. The committee’s chair, Councilmember Nick Licata, is questioning him to verify that Nickelsville has not yet found such sites. The next person says Nickelsville found out about the 7 councilmembers’ “close it by September 1st” letter when media crews started showing up later Monday. She is reading its official response letter – see it here, or here:
The next person says shutting Nickelsville down “would be doing a great disservice” to the city as well as to the encampment itself; followed by another person who says “Nickelsville is badly needed” because of the shelter shortage, and mentions Nickelsville’s vision of being an “eco-village.” Dorli Rainey, speaking next, tells the council, “What you are doing is splitting families.” The next speaker says he is ashamed of having to turn people away from shelters.
A representative of the Low-Income Housing Institute next tells the council they are considering making land available for an encampment. She is followed by a woman who says she supports homeless people but has seen problems with SHARE and has tried to talk with the city – which contracts with SHARE – about it, but contends no one will do anything about it.
2:47 PM: Another commenter points out the police presence at City Hall and is contentiously accusing the council of being unfair to the homeless people who have spoken. Minutes later, public comment ends, and the chambers are all but clearing, though Licata reminds everyone that the Nickelsville-related item is coming up third on the agenda.
3:04 PM: The committee is now discussing the Nickelsville-related item – which isn’t up for a vote, but more a decision on which way they want to proceed. Outside City Hall, the pro-encampment protest has begun; Emily Heffter from The Seattle Times (WSB partner) tweeted this photo showing demonstrators on the steps.
Back inside, Licata is saying that the Monday letter from seven of his Council colleagues did not seem to him to be “anti-encampment.” One of the signers, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, is agreeing. She says she believes Nickelsville residents “have created community.” She wonders if the proposal to expand possible encampment sites could also include property owned by nonprofits. The philosophical conversation continues.
3:21 PM: Licata says he wants to talk now about specifics about “what we’ll be facing in the next couple months” – specifically, the mayor’s response that if the council wants the camp cleared by September 1st, he will follow their directive to evict anyone who’s left then. And he envisions that not everyone will have left, “so we’re going to be faced with not a good photo op.”
3:44 PM: They’re still trying to shape what the rules would be. Licata notes that Nickelsville has 125 people now. Should legislation, they’re discussing, put a limit on the number of sites? Councilmember Bruce Harrell says, what about people who choose to live in tents? Licata assistant Lisa Herbold says it’s not like they have an option to go into long-term housing, because it has waiting lists: “The function of a tent city is not an alternative to long-term housing, it’s someplace you go while you wait for long-term housing.”
4:04 PM: The document accompanying this agenda, by the way, is here. Option 2, the committee agrees, possibly leaving Nickelsville at the current site, “is off the table.”