Nickelsville sweep updates (as it happened)

Supposedly starting…we are almost there, more to come. Update..organizers say anyone here at 1 pm will be arrested. Huge media presence. Including us. Waiting for police. Update..they are here. Mayor communications director Robert Mak here. Another mayoral spokesperson says police will clear the site. City says they have beds for anyone who needs one. Lull in the action now (1:18) Lots of SW Precinct folks. One arrest so far. At least four arrests now…peaceful. Two more arrests now. (1:42) At least 15 arrests so far.

Photo taken at 1:50PM

2:03…police almost up to camp entrance. Still peaceful though some onlookers are boisterous in a good natured way. 2:07…orange vested city workers now confabbing on other end of site

Photo taken 2:10 PM:

Photo taken 2:26 PM as police reached the entrance of the camp (west side; they’d entered from the east and swept east to west):

2:40 Update: The police sweep is over. Police say they arrested 22 people. Those people have been taken to the Southwest Precinct for processing.They are expected to be questioned and released. 3:20 PM UPDATE: Going to open another post shortly for some of the video we brought back – no longer at the site. Just before we left, spokespeople for Seattle Police and the mayor’s office had a short news conference – basically, some of the campers have moved onto adjacent state land, and though it wasn’t put in so many words, that’s now the state’s problem, the city has cleared city land. Mayoral spokesperson Karin Zaugg-Black also noted that at least 13 people took the city up on its offer of someplace to stay, and police spokesperson Officer Mark Jamieson said social-services workers were at the SW Precinct to try to help those who were arrested.

55 Replies to "Nickelsville sweep updates (as it happened)"

  • beef September 26, 2008 (12:44 pm)

    yeah, the news helicopters have been there for awhile.

  • Erik September 26, 2008 (1:06 pm)

    TR – I just saw a shot of you from SkyKing watching the renegotiation going on.

  • Diane September 26, 2008 (1:08 pm)

    watching live on king 5
    wish I could afford to stand in solidarity with these folks
    excellent point re enough beds in jail, but not for shelter

  • Diane September 26, 2008 (1:12 pm)

    gratified to see king 5 continuing coverage, and not cutting out to some stupid soap

  • Kayleigh September 26, 2008 (1:27 pm)

    Just :-(.

  • Diane September 26, 2008 (1:33 pm)

    damn, ch 5 just stopped coverage 1:28, saying it would continue on nwcn; not
    now the stupid soap is on ch 5 and ch 6; jeez

  • Dave September 26, 2008 (1:34 pm)

    Arrest and prosecute the organizers and move the rest of the homeless to the Mayor’s back lawn or perhaps to Simms’

  • Alcina September 26, 2008 (1:46 pm)

    Dave, I ask that you not blame Sims. King County gave Seattle gobs of money for homeless services a while back and I just learned about this today……the kicker is that Seattle has chosen not to spend it and has it just sitting in their bank account. Maybe Seattle will now decide to do something useful with that money that results in actually helping people in need.

  • Ms Pam September 26, 2008 (1:59 pm)

    I really feel badly for most of these folks. All they want is a SAFE place to live. I would guess that the majority of them would prefer a better, more comfortable place to rest their bodies at night. A place that they could have their dogs as well. Come on Seattle, do the right thing!

  • STEPH September 26, 2008 (2:11 pm)

    Who are these people? Please do yell at me when I ask this because it is an honest question that I really don’t know the answer to. Why don’t they have jobs? Again, I am not trying to be rude, I am just curious to know what has caused these people to be in this position. Is it health issues, etc.?

  • BC September 26, 2008 (2:16 pm)

    Since they are on the site on a proposed jail, I say let them stay and build the jail around them.

  • cmc September 26, 2008 (2:16 pm)

    Perhaps the lesson here is if you’re going to make poor choices with money, be sure to do so with enough others’ to impact the national economy.

  • Tracy September 26, 2008 (2:21 pm)

    When you give to the homeless without anything in return like work or service, all you become is a person who enables the homeless to stay homeless.

  • old timer September 26, 2008 (2:34 pm)

    ‘enables the homeless to stay homeless’

    What kind of high school psychology is this?
    These people, by their very status have self-defined their value to society.
    They do not need enabling, they need assistance.
    In the ‘me first, where’s mine, and up yours’ society,
    I find the enabling comment from the ‘up yours’ faction.
    Grow some compassion, the financial windstorm is just starting.

  • Julie September 26, 2008 (2:35 pm)

    Tracy, you can read Anitra’s story here, one of Nickelsville’s organizers (she is the women who relayed the police terms to Nickelsville residents this afternoon.) Unfortunately it is not as simple as it seems to get off the street.

  • STEPH September 26, 2008 (2:35 pm)

    I’m reading that a lot of people are homeless because of loosing there home(s) from bad loans. I understand that. Can they work and rent a tiny place outside the city? I work. I rent. And this is because we could not buy a home years ago because people were willing to pay money they didn’t have to get these homes. If we would have said, “Sure, we’ll pay one million dollars for that 250K house with 0 down.” we would have ended up just like some of these people who are homeless today. You do the math.

  • Alcina September 26, 2008 (2:36 pm)

    Steph, it is impossible to say why any group of homeless people are without housing. Every individual’s situation is different.

    Many do have jobs. For example, approximately 80 percent of the people who live in SHARE/WHEEL’s Tent City 3 and Tent City 4 are employed. As I’m sure you are aware that to get into a rental unit one usually must pay first/last months’ rent plus a damage deposit and some stay temporarily in one of those two Tent Cities until they can accure that much money.

    There is not enough subsidized housing for our low-income working poor and even if a person is working two minimum wage jobs, it is difficult two afford housing in Seattle. A low-income family or individual can be on a waiting list for subsidized housing for years.

    The situation will likely only get worse as the economy continues to tank.

    Quite a number of the homeless in the Seattle area are disabled veterans. A step in the right direction to provide more housing for these individuals who served our county, is that Sen. Patty Murray just announced funding for an additional 58 shelter beds for homeless veterans in Renton.

    One thing that sort of flabberghasted me today was that the Seattle Mayor and his spokespeople were saying that there are shelter beds for everyone in Nicklesville. Unfortunately, our current shelters are full every night and people are turned away. So, if one of the Nicklesville residents takes a shelter bed tonight, they are displacing the person who slept in that bed last night.

  • Kayleigh September 26, 2008 (2:37 pm)

    Steph, many of them do have jobs. People become homeless for lots of reasons (financial issues, eviction, health problems, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction, divorce, death) and often a combination of reasons.

    Tracy, letting people starve, become dehydrated, be exposed to violence and danger, suffer extreme sense and unsafety, and struggle to survive is not the cure for homelessness.

  • justme September 26, 2008 (2:38 pm)

    Tracy, you seem to be just one of many lacking in compassion. Lots of these people are mentally ill or are looking for work. Trying to find employment without shelter, showers, change of clothing, etc.. is quite difficult. Those people that fell victim to faulty mortgages and are now homeless, should they not be helped without expecting something in return? When people are down and out, depressed or challenged in huge ways, isn’t it the right thing to do to grant them just a few services before expecting immediate results? If you’ve been sick for a long time, are you able to bounce back immediately just because someone hands you a free meal? I thing not. It’s not as simple as you’ve tried to be “clever” and quote.

  • justme September 26, 2008 (2:39 pm)

    beautifully said “old timer.”

  • wbn September 26, 2008 (2:41 pm)

    Who are these people..many homeless people are mentally ill, some maybe homeless because of lack of health insurance then a downward spiral occurs can’t afford medication, too sick to work, can’t afford rent…..

    What can we do as a community to help????

  • Kayleigh September 26, 2008 (2:41 pm)

    sorry…bad grammar, long day. extreme lack of safety…how about that.

  • STEPH September 26, 2008 (2:43 pm)

    Thank you Tracy. I wish we could put more money in to social services to help them deal with their problems instead of just paying for them to stay homeless. I’m glad to hear some are working. I just read a note that there was some sort of social worker there meeting with campers.

  • justme September 26, 2008 (2:46 pm)

    Stephanie, I was there myself yesterday. There have been social workers there with them the entire time.

  • Tracy September 26, 2008 (2:48 pm)

    It is called picking yourself up by the bootstraps.

  • Kayleigh September 26, 2008 (2:56 pm)

    Tracy, did you read the thoughtful things people wrote?

    These people don’t have a home. Which means they don’t *have* bootstraps. And I guarantee you the children that are homeless tonight and every night don’t have “bootstraps.”

    Ever have your blood sugar bonk on you? I mean, really crash after a long run or a long hike? Multiply this day after day after day….and then find your “bootstraps”.

  • STEPH September 26, 2008 (2:57 pm)

    I meant to say thank you to Kayleigh & Alcina for your info.

  • STEPH September 26, 2008 (2:58 pm)

    …not Tracy

  • Soupytwist September 26, 2008 (3:10 pm)

    The city of Seattle should fund MORE places like Urban Rest Stop ( – such a great place, great services, and self-policing. Every neighborhood should have one.

  • WSB September 26, 2008 (3:16 pm)

    Just so you all know, whoever posts as Tracy is NOT me, I go by TR here (though you’ll find it spelled out on the About page). Not a comment on whatever she/he posted, just that I see “my” first name about 10 times in the comments, which I couldn’t read while out in the field, so I thought I’d make a note. Anitra, btw, was the first person arrested. I have gobs of video to wade through and some general observations; first media circus I’ve been at in a while (shorthand for anything where the amount of media present is almost more than the amount of people actually taking part in whatever is being covered). I do want to say that the police were very peaceful, nonconfrontational, etc. – and so were the protesters – I was in the thick of it from the time police entered the camp to the east till they exited it to the west, and it was almost bucolic at times. Full writeup to come, first I have to make sure there’s not some other news to share. Sorry for the choppy format of the post above – first time I have used the iPhone to post live – it just wasn’t a laptop type of situation, running in the photographer/reporter pack; police asked us to always stay just ahead of whoever they were talking to/whatever tent they were checking – TR

  • Alcina September 26, 2008 (3:22 pm)

    Homelessless is complex and, Tracy, I’d like to suggest it is simplistic to say that all people have to do is pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

    Let me share with you an actual example of a homeless couple I know. They are in their mid-40s and worked all of their adult lives and lived modestly. She came down with cancer and got so sick she couldn’t work so she lost her job and health insurance. They were just barely hanging on with her husband’s salary and then the company he worked for got bought out and he was laid off. He found another job right away but it didn’t pay enough to cover all their bills and his new job didn’t have health insurance and evenutally they ended up being homeless. They were on a list for subsidized housing for months.

    They tried to pull themselves up by their bootstraps as you seem to think everyone is able to. I would like to suggest that sometimes homeless people just need some short-term assistance to get back on their feet and be self-sufficient. Other times, there is a need for longer-term assistance. The solutions are not simple.

  • AJP September 26, 2008 (3:27 pm)

    I work out at the downtown YMCA. I was in the locker room a few months ago and a homeless woman and her friend were in there, showering and changing. I’m not sure if they were members (the YMCA does offer scholarships) or guests. They were clean, well-groomed, and their clothes were relatively clean. I wouldn’t have known they were homeless, except one woman said to the other “Yeah I was living in subsidized housing, but with all the drug deals and violence there, the police never came when you called. I just didn’t feel safe, I’d rather be homeless than live in a place like that.”

  • DM September 26, 2008 (3:32 pm)

    I don’t know any of the people who have been camping at the “Nicklesville” site, but I can imagine their reasons for needing to do so. Think of your worst “nightmare scenario”. We’re all afraid of what would happen if we lose our financial security or health, and don’t have a family support system, especially if we’re older. Where could we go that would be safe? I’m sure there are/were many varied personal stories with in the camp. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to be homeless: having to pull yourself together every morning after an uncertain night of sleep, finding food, trying to get to work if you have managed to get a job without an address…No one would voluntarily choose that life if they had options. It sounds like people sought the only safe community they could find.

    I have to wonder about the folks who opted to, or were able to, move on, lose their temporary safe community, and not get arrested. Where are they going to go now? There are shelters, but then you have to wake up, move on again and figure out how you’re going to get through the basics of the day again. Doesn’t leave much time for career building. How often do we in safe homes have to contemplate that? They are in my thoughts tonight.

  • mellaw6565 September 26, 2008 (3:38 pm)

    Tracy – why don’t you volunteer some time with the homeless and inform yourself? I think you’ll come away with a very different perspective.

  • A different Julie September 26, 2008 (4:17 pm)

    This is something we all need more information to understand, so that we can figure out how best to help. I read Anitra’s story (thanks for the link, Julie), and one thing I notice is that it was written in 2002. That’s 6 years ago, but Anitra is still, apparently, homeless, as WSB says she was one of the first arrested.

    Now, I understand it can be difficult and take time, and I understand dealing with recurrent depression is very, very hard. But Anitra has apparently connected with resources to help, and they haven’t been enough to help give her a stable, roof-over-her-head situation. In what way have these resources been inadequate to her so far, and what specifically is missing? What can we provide to move Anitra, who certainly has some skills to build on, from homeless to “homed” status? Or is this a choice she’s making, and, if so, why?

    I absolutely understand and agree that these people have tough things to overcome. I believe we should help. I just find I need more of the story before I’ll have a good idea what’s truly helpful–beyond just the baby wipes, flashlights, etc., which help the short-term issues, but not the long-term ones.

  • me September 26, 2008 (4:34 pm)

    “It is called picking yourself up by the bootstraps.”

    Yeah, most people can do that when they get pregnant, are victims of domestic violence, get fired, get sick, have a spouse die…but what if two things happen?

    It’s easier than you think to get in trouble if your not rich, or if you have no family, or if the rest of your family is already in trouble, ect.

  • me September 26, 2008 (4:39 pm)

    Try going without food for just one day. It’s really hard to try and figure out how to get a job when you haven’t eaten for a long time.

  • Alcina September 26, 2008 (4:42 pm)

    DM, where a number of the Nickelsville residents are going now temporarily is right next door to the WA Dept. of Transportation property. Gov. Gregoire is getting involved and has said they could stay there for the next 5-7 days.

  • Cleveland Ken September 26, 2008 (5:02 pm)

    Why is everyone pissed at Tracy? Seems there’s a mess of tents plopped down in a nasty old field. Why don’t we give them a job cleaning up the lot and they can stay 1 day. Then move them to someplace else where we need some weeding and cleaning. We can get a lot of places cleaned up this way. Got a job and a place to stay, can’t get much better than that. We used goats why not people.

  • mellaw6565 September 26, 2008 (5:04 pm)

    Cleveland – because people are not goats. How about some dignity for them and their plight?

  • Cleveland Ken September 26, 2008 (5:12 pm)

    By the way if we didn’t want them there in the first place why did we put honey buckets there? Seems that if we left them out they would leave in a week or so from the smell.

  • WSB September 26, 2008 (5:43 pm)

    Organizers paid.
    The place still smelled.
    I don’t think living outdoors anywhere is pleasantly fragrant. They had to deal with rain earlier this week.
    OTOH, if you came over to our house, you’d probably think it reeked.
    Olfactory whatever is in the nose of the beholder.

  • Val Vashon September 26, 2008 (7:18 pm)

    I’ve got an idea for that soon to be vacant WAMU tower…

    The loss of health insurance story above is sobering. I can’t help but think that in Europe’s civilized societies, with universal health care, there must be fewer homeless people.

  • WSB September 26, 2008 (7:32 pm)

    Health insurance is one of the most shocking things we encountered when I quit my corporate job last year. I found catastrophic/high deductible insurance for our family for $460ish per month. That has already jumped up to almost $600 (without us having filed a single claim). And the deductible is so high that if any of us had to go to the doctor for something routine, that would still come straight out of our pocket, even though we are technically insured … I am thankful for good health for more reasons than one. But I chose to leave a job with guaranteed, good benefits … for those who find themselves uninsured by circumstances, and can’t even afford that $600, I can’t imagine what it’s like.

  • Scott September 26, 2008 (7:52 pm)

    TR – loss of health insurance, that’s us at Boeing on strike next week = 10/1.
    I’m stocked up on my meds for 3 months…

  • pelicans September 26, 2008 (8:44 pm)

    I worked for a local security company that, among other things, had the contract to guard the old Muni Building, other city buildings, and the WW1 Memorial square that used to be on the east side of the Muni building at 4th and Cherry. Every day there a different community or church group would provide food to anyone who wanted it. This was very organized. My company’s guards had to keep the square clean, free of drug/alcohol use/violence,etc. It was really eye opening. Sure there were the lowlifes, but there were all other types there, too, including families. I finally understood what the term “working poor” meant. We were poor when I was little, but not like that. So many of them held down jobs, living in their cars, or at shelters. In the winter, when the temperature went below the mid-30’s, the City would open its building’s lobbies for men to sleep overnight. The smell wasn’t pretty, but they were warm, dry, orderly and grateful. Am not sure if the city still does this, but I do know that St. Martin’s Shelter on Alaskan way still busses in men every night and lets them out in the morning with coffee. I’ve heard what AJP heard many times, and completely agree with Alcina. Lumping all homeless together isn’t the solution-every case is different. BTW, remember the pictures of 1930’s “Hooverville” in the area of what is now Pier 30 where the cruise ships tie up? It was huge. If a homeless encampment was allowed, was self-policing, with counselors and assistance available, wouldn’t that at least help in the short-term?

  • mimi September 26, 2008 (9:01 pm)

    The media fails to report the facts surrounding the organizers of “Nickelsville.” Make no mistake about it, this was brought to us by the political thugs that make up SHARE/WHEEL. Anitra Freeman was the so called “spokesperson” and she was the first arrested today. She is the president of SHARE/WHEEL. Leo Rhodes has been a Tent City 4 resident since it began in May 2004 and prior to that lived in Tent City 3 for 4-5 yrs. He is the treasurer of SHARE/WHEEL. Peggy Hotes is a special education teacher for the Lake Washington School District and instead of being in the classroom this week doing her job chose to live in Nickelsville and was arrested today. Scott Morrow is the founder of SHARE/WHEEL and he runs all of their shelters including Tent City 3 & 4. The majority of the 100 “homeless” that made up Nickelsville over the last days were brought over in vans from Tent City 3 in Shoreline and Tent City 4.
    The City of Seattle has a consent decree with SHARE/WHEEL that allows them to operate Tent City 3, but Nickelsville was a violation of that agreement. To get around it, the operators of SHARE/WHEEL hid behind the group Veterans for Peace and claimed that Nickelsville was their operation, which was false. Non profit status of Veterans for Peace can’t be used by SHARE/WHEEL as a way to hide and get around the Seattle consent decree.
    The Seattle media needs to do their job and fact check before they simply report what they are being told by the activists of SHARE/WHEEL. This group resorts to these tactics as a way to extort public land in and effort to duplicate the Dignity Village model of Portland. They have a history of making threats to get their way. Tent City 4 and Safe Harbors are two examples of that.(please google those things as well as the names and educate yourself on this issue.)
    If there are 8000 people on the streets of King County, how is it that they could only fill up Nickelsville with 100 that were imported from Tent City 3 & 4?
    Google these peoples names. Read up on Tent City 4 and Safe Harbors and SHARE/WHEEL. All the players are the same. This isi not what it seems. Please, don’t just blindly believe what you are reading and hearing in the media.

  • WSB September 26, 2008 (9:29 pm)

    Thanks for the info, Mimi.
    One thing – speaking as a member of the media, “new’ media now after 25+ years in the “old” media – what I’ve seen today has been pretty straightforward. People set up a camp, police came in, arrested them, police were peaceful, arrestees peaceful, some have moved on to the parking lot next door. I’m working on finishing a video diary of sort with many clips that people can click to view for themselves. I’ve watched others’ reports and they too have been fairly factual. Yes, it’s obvious that some of the organizers of efforts like this are veteran rabblerousers. If you look at Anitra Freeman’s blog, for example (to which we are linking in the forthcoming wrapup), it’s obvious she’s been at this a while. Doesn’t necessarily invalidate what people do, just because they’ve been at it a while. But I have seen it pointed out repeatedly that some consider the city’s homelessness policy isn’t really so draconian. The question at the heart of it may be whether public lands are fair game for campers.

  • Anitra September 26, 2008 (9:32 pm)

    Anitra here – I want to correct the impression “A different Julie” had, that I am still homeless. I do say in the account linked above that I got housing in February 1996. I am still in that housing (this is the longest I have lived in one place in my life). I have also gone on doing volunteer work in the homeless community.
    People are getting out of homelessness every day; more are falling into homelessness every day; so the number of homeless people grows. A lot of us are working on long-term solutions; in the meantime, people have to stay alive tonight. Every person who dies while homeless is a failure of the housing program.
    Those of us who organized Nickelsville were about half-and-half homeless and formerly homeless. We created a space where people who had no other options would have safety, shelter and sanitation, and we let them arrange the details themselves. I was moved, inspired, amazed this whole week to see the change in everyone who dragged in exhausted, anxious — “We were told we could stay here? Can we stay here?” As soon as their stuff was settled in a tent, they would turn around and say, “What can I do to help?” Everybody pitched in. People of all colors, shapes, sizes, ages, and genders were working together, happily.
    It was worth the work to make that possible. It was worth getting arrested to try to protect it.
    I would like to see someone follow up on the 13 (some reports say 14) people who “got shelter.” All the reports I got were that people were being given cards with the address of a shelter referral agency. Most of the people in the camp have been to one of the shelter referral agencies already, and found no shelter. I have been in meetings of shelter providers all year long; there are not 14 open shelter beds in the city.
    No social service worker talked to any of us while we were at the West Precinct. There was no time. We were processed out of there at record speed.
    Mayor Nickels has nothing to offer that is the equivalent of Nickelsville – a place where you could have the privacy of a seven-by-seven space of your own, the independence to come and go on your own schedule so that you can hold a job, the dignity to build something for yourself.
    I have other meetings here in town Saturday; I will be going back Saturday night to stay with the folks in the parking lot for a while, see what I can do to help out. I am hoping that the state will give us permission to set up on the state part of the property, right next to where we were.
    Until something better exists, we all still need Nickelsville. It doesn’t do any of us any good to have thousands of people on the streets, exhausted and hungry and sick. It’s easier for people to solve whatever problems they need to solve, to get back on their feet, when they have one stable place to sleep. It is easier for social services to find them when they are in one stable place. It is easier for a number of people staying together to stay safe.
    Thank you for the clear, honest coverage we’ve gotten in the West Seattle Blog, and the understanding of the realities of homelessness shown in most of the comments I’ve read here. We’ve had a lot of wonderful support all week, from people all across Seattle.

  • Scott B. September 26, 2008 (10:14 pm)

    WSB wrote:
    “The question at the heart of it may be whether public lands are fair game for campers.”


    Thank you for the succinct summaray.

    In this case, the particular public lands are not fair game for campers. State parks have campsites set aside for campers.

  • DM September 26, 2008 (11:27 pm)

    Dear Mimi,

    You shared some information about dedicated homeless advocates, but I still worry about the folks who are trying to find a safe, warm and dry place to stay tonight.

    I’m proud of people who step foreword to try to mend what’s wrong with our society for the long haul. I haven’t had the courage to do that. I’m sure “homeless advocates” would love it if they didn’t have to worry about it. They are only guilty of having a compassionate consciousness. Why else would they stay with it so long. There certainly aren’t any financial benefits.

  • mimi September 27, 2008 (12:09 am)

    Here is a quote that appears in an article online from “Real Change” the homeless paper:

    Leo Rhodes, who has been homeless for more than 20 years and active in the Nickelsville initiative, reminded everybody how Tent City started in the face of earlier city sweeps. “They said [Tent City] was not going to happen and look now…. This is just the beginning.”

    I again ask the media to research this and ask the tough questions. Leo Rhodes has lived in Tent City 4 since it began in May 2004 and prior to tha he lived in Tent City for 4-5yrs. Homeless in America for 20 yrs? I’m sorry but if you are able to be an “activist” and living rent free in a tent then you are able to work and pay rent. These people are playing on the emotions of hard working and decent people. If Leo Rhodes is homeless for 20 yrs then I am sorry to say that it has become a lifestyle choice for him.
    Please, check into these people being interviewed. All is not as it seems.

  • A different Julie September 27, 2008 (10:17 am)

    Anitra, thanks for the clarification! I’m very glad to hear you have a better situation now. I have some understanding, from your blog, what things helped you. Can you elaborate on just how many actual homeless were in Nickelsville–that is, how many of the people had tried and failed to find other shelter? Of those, I’m interested in knowing how many were chronically homeless and how many were recently homeless? I also think it would be helpful to know, for both chronic and recently homeless people in the camp, what is lacking to help them move to more permanent housing–what services are needed and not available, what services are technically available but not in sufficient quantity for the need, what services are underfunded, and by how much?

    It’s clear to me that this is a very complicated problem, and I think we all need to start understanding it in more depth if we are to help effectively.

    For example, it seems pretty clear that, if we were to ensure medical coverage for everyone, some people who are now homeless would not have been made homeless. That’s one part. What else?

  • mimi September 27, 2008 (11:54 am)

    The quote from Leo Rhodes (20yrs homeless) can be found here at Real Change:

    Shortcut to:

  • Anitra September 27, 2008 (5:01 pm)

    Hello again, Julie.
    Thursday night 143 people stayed at Nickelsville. About 30 of those were non-homeless supporters. A dozen were homeless people from one of the established self-managed shelters or tent cities, helping the homeless people at Nickelsville get organized. Most of the remaining 100 had been outside without shelter the night before they came to Nickelsville. Some were people who had been staying at other shelters and found Nickelsville to be more attractive: you could have privacy (at least 7’x7′ of it), you could come and go (this attracts working people), and you could build something for yourself.
    The amount of time people had been homeless, or were likely to remain homeless, varied widely; it always does. One man who helped set up Nickelsville was just days from being evicted from his apartment; others had been on the street for years. Most people, especially those in the Tent Cities, are homeless for four months or less, but one couple who were already hooked up with services at Solid Ground had been told quite frankly that it could be several years before an apartment would open up for them.
    Basically, homelessness is a hole in the sidewalk. Personal factors influence who will drop into that hole; those problems did not create the hole. If you have 1000 low-income people and only 800 low-income rentals, you have 200 homeless people. If you get all those 200 homeless people medical care, education, and counseling, you have 200 healthy, well-educated and well-adjusted homeless people. If you get those 200 homeless people into rentals, you have a different 200 homeless people.
    In the 1970s, the United States had a fraction of the homeless people we have today; and in the 1970s, the federal government spent over $80 billion a year on building, maintaining, and subsidizing low-income housing. Today, the federal budget for building low-income housing is $0, and we have an epidemic of homelessness. This is the basic hole in the sidewalk.
    That money did not just stop being spent. It is now spent subsidizing middle- and upper-income housing. This accelerates the drive to tear down low-income housing and replace it with more expensive housing. For every unit of housing created under the “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness” at least three have been lost. At that rate, we will never end homelessness. The hole in the sidewalk will just keep getting bigger.
    Four things got me out of homelessness: 1) a source of steady income. For me this is Social Security. I worked for 20 years before my depression cycles became too disabling. 2) subsidized housing: There isn’t any place in the country where a person making less than $15 an hour can afford a market-rate apartment without some assistance. 3) medical care: It doesn’t take much medication to keep me stable, but I can’t stay stable without that little bit. 4) community. The volunteer work I do and the extensive social network I have through that is a critical part of keeping me stable.
    The first step in getting any of those things was finding a safe place to sleep at night. Without the stability and security of a safe, clean place to sleep, there is no way I could have focused enough to even make appointments. I would still be wandering out there in a Great Gray Fog of depression, and something would have killed me by now.
    One of the people I stood a Woman in Black vigil for was Tonya Smith, who was found stabbed to death near where she had been sleeping in the greenbelt. For days before her death, caseworkers had been searching for Tonya, to tell her that space had opened in the treatment program she’d applied for. If they had known where to find her, she’d be alive right now, and possibly well on her way to a better life. She didn’t have to be in a shelter that itself supplied services; she just had to be in a shelter where the service workers could find her.
    Even one blanket on a bare floor is better than being stabbed to death in the bushes.

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