‘Nickelsville’ closure countdown: Local faith group plans vigils

(UPDATED 3:34 pm with new information from Union Gospel Mission – scroll to end)

Nine days remain until the September 1st date by which city leaders committed to closing the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville,” on mostly city-owned land at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way. By multiple accounts – including the one you’ll see below – the number of people there has increased instead of decreased. What will happen when September 1st arrives, remains to be seen. First: We asked for comment from the mayor, whose spokesperson Aaron Pickus replies:

I’m not going to speculate on what will happen on September 1st. What I can say is that our focus is to find shelter for those currently living at the site.

In June, when 7 councilmembers called for the closure, the mayor replied that he would “follow the City Council’s direction to evict those who remain” if the site isn’t vacant on September 1st.

The City Council, which called for the closure, is on its summer break right now, so no official discussions are scheduled on their part. But the latest acknowledgment that the closure date is approaching comes from the Westside Interfaith Network, a coalition of local churches and faith-based groups that has long coalesced around the issue of homelessness. We covered its forum on the issue in mid-June. WIN’s Mary Anne deVry says the group plans nightly vigils at Nickelsville starting this Sunday – NOT to demand that it stay open, but to show their concern about the unsolved problem of homelessness. She writes:

Westside Inferfaith Network (WIN) met this week and decided to hold a vigil at Nickelsville’s parking lot each evening next week (Sun. 8/25 thru Sat. 8/31). This idea arose as we were discussing the growing crisis of homeless people. Our idea is based on these facts:

-Nickelsville is closing (September 1st) & there are still ~150 residents with no confirmed place to move,

-There’s a steady increase of homeless people (recently 9 families asked shelter at N’ville in a 13 day period–& many couples/singles keep coming–none of them were looking for “freebies!)

-2-1-1 reports shelters are full (most people coming to N’ville are told to do so by 2-1-1),

-it’s not safe to live in the greenbelt or city streets.

-We also know literally tens of thousands of people in our area struggle on the brink of homelessness. There will be future homeless people.

We care deeply about the plight of each of these people. At our WIN meeting the flow of comments basically was “what can we do to help all these people…what can we do to show we care…what can we do to enlighten our community about this situation.” The idea that arose was to have a silent witness of love and caring at Nickelsville’s parking lot–for the people there AND for all the struggling people in our community.

Westside Interfaith Network (WIN) church group invites anyone who cares about homeless kids/elderly/or adults to stand with a flashlight at Nickelsville’s parking lot any time 6-10 PM each evening from Sun. 8/25 to Sat. 8/31. As people of faith, we help bring God’s light into our world; and we shed light on the plight of the 10,000’s who are homeless–or on the brink of homelessness–in our area. Where will the current–and future–homeless go after 9/1? Shelters are full; greenbelts are not safe. In the past 13 days, 9 newly-homeless families arrived at N’ville! This is simply our churches/community saying, “we care about our neighbors in need.” Come to SE corner of W.Marginal Wy & SW Highland Pk with a flashlight, park on edge of road, join others and “let your little light shine.”

The hope is that: people will come once/twice/or thrice, and that everyone will pass this information on to friends/family/or foes. Since there is limited parking space near the camp, suggest people car-pool or realize they may have to walk a wee bit. Some have said they’re bringing a camp chair.

Mary Anne added that Nickelsville is mourning Daniel Campbell, a resident who died of lymphoma at the camp last Saturday, and will have a Service of Remembrance at 7 pm Saturday (update – at a TBA date).

Back to the site’s future – Union Gospel Mission is the organization that is working at city direction to find housing and other services for those at Nickelsville. According to a story in The Stranger, UGM’s “most recent report” says they have moved at least 24 people from the camp.

3:34 PM UPDATE: Just talked with Terry Pallas from UGM. He says that “most recent report” actually was from almost a month ago, and they have now almost doubled the number to 47 people. Eight have accepted “travelers’ aid” and are on their way to other places to relocate with family/friends; the other 39 have housing in this area, including, he says, 20 leased transitional apartments, guaranteed for a year. We will write a separate story with full details of our conversation and how their part of this is going, but wanted to update the number. He acknowledges that since there is no mandate for campers to accept UGM help, nor any mandate for Nickelsville to “close the door,” that the camp still has an estimated 125 or more people.

24 Replies to "'Nickelsville' closure countdown: Local faith group plans vigils"

  • chris August 23, 2013 (12:37 pm)

    Sad to see this attitude towards families and individuals who are homeless..what is most disturbing is the fact that the mayor chose to IGNORE this problem for quite sometime.Instead of finding a real solution that will eliminate homelessness he decides to sweep it under the rug like most politicians..because it’s not profitable or I don’t want to deal with it attitude.Homelessness can happen to anyone..even you Mr Mayor.

  • Fire Ball August 23, 2013 (12:40 pm)

    Sept 1st will come and go…Nickelsville will still be there.
    Not they can just pack up and leave, to nowhere.

  • JanS August 23, 2013 (1:44 pm)

    Mary Anne…so proud of you.

    UGM knew what the deadline was, and did nothing to meet it. Perhaps the city was wrong in giving them 500K in the first place, if they weren’t up for the job. No matter how people feel about an illegal encampment on city property, or Scott Morrow, these campers are human beings and their lives we’re dealing with,and they deserve respect.

    RIP, Daniel Campbell :(

  • West Seattle Hipster August 23, 2013 (2:24 pm)

    I also feel that McGinn will do nothing come September 1st. Real solutions are needed to combat homelessness, throwing taxpayer dollars will not solve the issue.

    Perhaps some of the folks that have illegally camped there should look for work/housing elsewhere in the country. Seattle is one of the more expensive areas of the country to live, perhaps a change of scenery could improve their chances of finding stable housing.

  • Lisa August 23, 2013 (2:36 pm)

    Can the land be purchased? From what I understand the land is unincorporated; but I do not know who owns it. Surely donors would support this cause so that their community can continue to fulfill this NEED. It is a disservice to bump them endlessly from area to area. With land stability they can develop a functioning structure.

    • WSB August 23, 2013 (2:54 pm)

      Lisa, part of why this is happening, more than 2 years after the encampment moved back to this site, is that Food Lifeline is interested in buying it for a new headquarters/warehouse/etc. It is not unincorporated; it is within city of Seattle boundaries, and the city owns most of the parcel. – TR

  • dsa August 23, 2013 (2:56 pm)

    The mayor’s spokesman said:
    I’m not going to speculate on what will happen on September 1st.”

    Translation: We have no plan come 9/1.

  • Lisa August 23, 2013 (3:53 pm)

    So it CAN be bought. Does Food Lifeline still support Nicklesville by bringing a daily meal? There are so many vacant warehouses, and so little remaining land… Thanks for the information. I support what this group has going on and appreciate your coverage of the issues.

  • smokeycretin9 August 23, 2013 (5:16 pm)

    yes. buy the homeless a plot of land that floods and is constantly wet all winter long. That will solve everything.

  • Sally August 23, 2013 (7:16 pm)

    Food Lifeline is definitely going to buy the property. And this is not McGinn’s fault; he has allowed Nickelsville to occupy the land for much longer than anyone else would do. If you want to complain, write your City Councilmembers who don’t think people should live in tents but don’t have any better ideas; write your state legislators, many of whom have the same position; write your Congressional representatives, many of whom have the same position. Tents are not appropriate for children or lymphoma patients but they are better than the raw ground.

    This nation is shameful.

  • Robespierre August 23, 2013 (8:05 pm)

    This is bad news, for Mike McGinn…

  • Lisa Davidson August 23, 2013 (8:25 pm)

    Please come to the vigil. Bear witness. All the opinions and judgments in the world help no one, especially not the 4 year old little girl at NV who said to me yesterday “do you have any rice. i’m hungry” … that isn’t political people, that is inhumane. That in a great city like Seattle we can figure out a way to put the largest boring machine ever built in place to tear through the city without it’s crashing down, but we cannot figure out how to feed and put a roof over the heads of a few hundred people. C’mon. There is a way out and its by changing the paradigm of alleviating poverty. And most of all it is by accessing our humanity. I’ve been there, I’ve looked into these faces, had conversations, dropped off food. I’m not a part of an organization, I am just a person. I challenge 500 or 1000 or 10,000 more of you to care.

  • 13KV Jay August 23, 2013 (10:50 pm)

    Well, McGinn villa will be open soon, on Bell st. In Belltown. Better stake your claim

  • Sarah August 23, 2013 (10:51 pm)

    I feel really bad for the people that will now have to move and find shelter. Regardless of the political situation, it is sad. These people and children have set up a community that looks out for each other. It isn’t an ideal living situation for anyone but at least they had a place were it seemed safer than the streets. I hope they find some way to help this community out.

  • Joel August 23, 2013 (10:55 pm)

    does food lifeline give them a daily meal? food lifeline is not a food bank or shelter. food lifeline gives food in bulk quantity to food banks and then it is distributed to the public.

    time for the land to be used for what it is zoned for…put a business in which will generate revenue and tax money in permits/fees/construction cost and will provide jobs to the community and a valued service. the jobs food lifeline creates may go to some of the homeless living in nicksville now. but it’s time for this to end. the vast people living in the greenbelt and the huge surge in car prawls and pan handling can move to another neighbor. where does McGinn live? maybe he’s got room in his backyard?

  • Patriot August 24, 2013 (5:39 am)

    So what’s been done about all the meth/crack and heroin dealers/users in camp? We quit supporting last year after it ran so rampant. Send in the sniffer dogs first. That’ll clear out several residents.

    • WSB August 24, 2013 (8:30 am)

      Patriot – UGM’s Terry Pallas told me (forthcoming story, as noted, I haven’t started writing for the day yet) that some of the people they have placed have “self-identified” as addicts and have been put in rehab.

  • Gene August 24, 2013 (7:03 am)

    And maybe we should be doing what Sally suggested- REALLY ADVOCATING for these folks with the people who can do actually DO something. Our City, County & State Representatives. So many bemoan Nickelsvilles demise – but it wasn’t a dry clean safe place & NEVER meant to be permanent . The mindset of — it’s better than being on the street– is just a “feel good” thought. There needs to be a permanent place / places for the homeless in our city to go that is safe dry warm has hot & cold running water with toilets, showers & washers & dryers. Meals available as well as information & access to services that will really help.
    Surely there are proframs & orojects like this across our country that Seattle could use as a model?!

  • Really? August 24, 2013 (7:05 am)

    Shocker the city gave them 500k and the population there increased. And people wonder why we are known as freeattle

  • Lisa August 24, 2013 (9:36 am)

    I hope you all fare well throughout your lives

  • Patriot August 24, 2013 (11:52 am)

    Tracy, thanks for the info on people taking advantage of rehab opportunities. We know some former residents that had done just that and are working hard at being contributing members of society. It’s heartening to know that there are those that are willing to take a “hand up” instead of just a hand out. Looking forward to reading more about it.

  • flimflam August 24, 2013 (12:46 pm)

    since this faith group will be there holding vigil, it would also be a perfect time for them to all buddy-up with the folks camped out and bring ’em on home with them after the vigil. win-win for both groups.

    • WSB August 24, 2013 (1:00 pm)

      Flimflam, just FYI, these local groups have been doing what they can, quietly, to donate and help. I don’t know that any have the land to offer to host an encampment, or the zoning for that matter. They also extend an invitation even to those who are opposed to the encampment (note what Mary Anne wrote) to come down and participate, so I’m sure you are welcome to come make your suggestion to them in person – TR

  • Marcia August 26, 2013 (10:13 am)

    For insights into how other cities respond to homelessness (or don’t) I recommend the film “Tent City USA” — you’ll find Seattle has lots in common with Nashville anyway.

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