Highland Park tonight: Crime report; “Nickelsville” vote; more

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.

12 Replies to "Highland Park tonight: Crime report; "Nickelsville" vote; more"

  • Dina Johnson September 23, 2008 (9:23 am)

    WS Blog:
    Thanks so much for your exceptional coverage of our community’s actions, highlighting the leadership of Chair Dorsol Plants and other members of the Highland Park Action Committee.
    What a treasure to West Seattle you are!

    Dina Johnson
    Publicity Chair, HPAC

  • Dave September 23, 2008 (9:34 am)

    “Homeless advocates plan to eventually replace the tents with permanent, simple wooden homes — “a shantytown” of 250 to 1,000 residents, said Peggy Hotes of Veterans for Peace.” http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/380135_nickelsville23.html

    This is an outrage. HPAC, how about organizing and taking action on nuisance properties in Highland Park, instead of conducting meaningless votes in support of politically driven stunts.

  • Dorsol Plants September 23, 2008 (11:29 am)

    Dave, I assure you we would be more than happy to do so, feel free to attend our future meetings to bring us up to speed on these nuisance properties.

    I appreciate the WSB’s coverage of our meeting last night and assure you that HPAC has the best interest of the community at heart here. If everyone were to take a moment to look at the sitation accurately, on Thursday when the Mayor clears the site it will simple push the citizens of Nickelsville into other greenbelt areas. If however he took measures to adopt any of the suggestions offered by various agencies in the city and county he could provide proper shelter for the citizenry. Its time to stop pushing people from dangerous greenbelt to dangerous greenbelt and treat them with the dignity they deserve as human beings.

    The number of shelter beds in the city does not match the number of beds needed, thats a fact not some stunt. Hundreds of people are sleeping outside every night and not by choice, the question has become what will we do about it?

    Dorsol Plants
    Highland Park Action Committee

  • Michael September 23, 2008 (11:56 am)

    Is HPAC going to assist with sanitation for “Nickelsville”? By far, public health issues are the biggest problem with such an encampment.
    Interested to know what leadership they’re prepared to take.

  • Dorsol Plants September 23, 2008 (12:07 pm)

    As spoken about during their presentation, sanitation is a huge concern with any type of community such as this. At present there are port-a-pots the citizens of Nickelsville are paying for to keep the area clean and serviced. After that, they have begun to discuss other options for sanitation; pending of course not being removed on Thursday.

    I think at this point its extremely important to point out that Nickelsville is not the first of its kind. Both Miami, FL and Portland, OR have had homeless encampments spring up to protest a lack of services provided for them. No one I heard speak said they want to spend the rest of their lives down there, but the options provided them are almost nonexistant at this point.

    Here is a link to an article on the Portland Tent City: http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/West/02/27/portland.homeless.ap/index.html

  • David September 23, 2008 (12:48 pm)

    If you want the homeless to pitch a tent, give them your address. If you’re so anxious, let them camp in your living room.

  • Pete September 23, 2008 (2:03 pm)

    I never cease to be amazed by folks that say “when are YOU going to do something about this problem or that problem”. Folks it is up to each of us who call Delridge, Highland Park or West Seattle home to be the change that we want in our community. If you think there are nuisance properties in your neighborhood get involved in your community and help make it a better place. We can never hope to improve our communities without the folks that live there becoming involved.


    Before jumping to conclusions about what could or could not happen spend some time doing some research. Go to public meetings where the topic is being discussed. Talk to your neighbors and see how they feel about the issue and what they have heard. If you do not know who to contact or how to get involved just post a comment out here on the blog and you will get more suggestions than you can shake a stick. There are so many opportunities to help make YOUR community a better place for everyone. GET INVOLVED TODAY!!!!!

  • Alcina September 23, 2008 (2:13 pm)

    I can appreciate your concerns about sanitation, but have you ever visited either Tent City 3 or Tent City 4? I have and neither have any garbage or sanitation problems because they are organized encampments. Nickelsville is also organized and isn’t the same as the encampments like those that were found in Camp Long or in city greenbelts.

  • datamuse September 23, 2008 (3:52 pm)

    The Seattle Times has weighed in, too.

    Honestly, so far this sounds a lot better than the encampments I’ve found during walks in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, which tend to be dirty and isolated, or the ones I’ve heard about in other areas. If there aren’t shelters for these people to go to, what do you think is going to happen when that encampment is cleared?

  • Catharine Fletcher September 23, 2008 (7:22 pm)

    I want to say thank you to the people who were at the HP meeting last night. I hope that others will watch and come to understand that a safe dry place to live is the basic need of these people and that it can be done well. I know some of the organizers and I know they will do their best to be good neighbors.
    This is not a hidden, trashy crime-ridden corner of the woods. This is people saying, Thank God I have a place to sleep tonight, out of the rain, with a little privacy, knowing I can sleep soundly because I am safe among my neighbors.
    I am writing a letter to Mayor Nickels, who is under pressure from a lot of directions, to remind him that these are people just like you and me. Not as lucky in being able to make a good life, but definitely Seattle citizens. Shuffling them around the city will not make them disappear, or help them get back on their feet in any way.

  • Kevin September 23, 2008 (7:40 pm)

    Perhaps the energy that is put into the many discussions on this blog could be put to use telling the mayor and hi office to spend time providing basic services rather than frittering away their time on grocery bag fees and other such ridiculous stunts.

    A letter to the mayor will take about as long as your last blog post. If I can paraphrase the sentiment of Pete above, stop complaining and get involved.

  • Alcina September 24, 2008 (10:16 am)

    I don’t think that Seattle Mayor and City Councilmembers don’t care about homelessness, but are simply overwhelmed with the complexity and enormity of the homeless problem in Seattle.

    For anyone who writes to them, I suggest you mention the court settlement this month in New York that mandates that New York City provide free emergency shelter to homeless families with children.

    Of course, this won’t solve the problem of single homeless people needing shelter, but it would be a step in the right direction if the Seattle Mayor and City Council did just this much right away.

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