West Seattle, Washington
New haircuts to start the New Year. That’s part of what volunteers organized by Vietnamese Cultural Center director Lee Bui brought to the “Nickelsville” encampment in West Seattle today, along with donated food and clothing. Above, Renton hairstylist Van; below, Nga Ngo:
Volunteers promised they’d return, after a Thanksgiving visit with free flu shots as well as food (WSB coverage here). Here’s most of today’s group:
While there, we also found a second group of volunteers, who came to the encampment to offer a New Year’s Day barbecue:
What the New Year will bring for Nickelsville isn’t clear, as their status on this city-owned land remains tenuous. Though Mayor McGinn said after the encampment’s return last spring that he didn’t plan to evict them as his predecessor had three years earlier, the city also is not moving toward granting a request for utility hookups, as discussed at last month’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting (WSB coverage here).
Time’s running out to get holiday help to those in need around our area; some giving trees and collection bins are already packed up and gone, with early deadlines, but not all. Case in point – Alison Newquist and Ricky Toomey of AAA in The Junction are shown with some of what started as a “Soap for Hope” collection for the Family Promise homeless-families program, till it closed, and then became a collection of items needed by those living at the West Seattle encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville.” AAA is helping the local band 93 Octane put together a delivery of necessities for Christmas Eve day, and you still have time to get to their office on the southwest corner of 42nd/Alaska to drop off donations. The list of what’s needed is in our previous story;
(September photo by Kevin McClintic)
Six months after its return to a city-owned site at West Marginal Way SW/Highland Park Way, the encampment that calls itself Nickelsville is in a sort of limbo – legal, and otherwise.
After the Highland Park Action Committee‘s meeting last night, following up on a discussion that began at its October meeting (as reported here), it seemed clear that the city does not currently intend to either:
*Evict the encampment
*Provide services (water/sewer/power hookups) that would make the site more habitable
You can watch the meeting yourself, if you’d like to see how it all played out:
Context for the meeting was a letter sent to the city by HPAC, as co-chairs Carolyn Stauffer and Billy Stauffer explained at the start of last night’s meeting. As the letter began, “In the past, our organization has been supportive of Nickelsville as a temporary situation. With news of this potentially becoming a permanent settlement, we have begun to hear a lot from our friends and neighbors.” HPAC says that the “burden of homelessness” should be shared with the rest of the city and suggests that this encampment, like others in the city, could switch sites every six months or so.
The issue drew a crowd to the meeting, including City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith, and Lisa Herbold from Councilmember Nick Licata‘s office.Read More
Followup from Nichole at Merrill Gardens-Admiral Heights (WSB sponsor) – residents and other community members succeeded in “stuffing the bus” with donations for Nickelsville residents of all ages last Saturday. We brought you an in-progress update here; Nichole sent followup photos today, including the “stuffed bus” above and this next pic of someone who also deserves a nod – resident council leader Richard Matteo, who played a big organization role too and was out that cold morning collecting cash donations at the coffee/cocoa/cookies table:
Right after they finished collecting at 4 pm, as it was already getting dark, they drove the bus down to the encampment (West Marginal Way SW/Highland Park Way) and unloaded everything that had been donated:
(P.S. The neighborhood closest to Nickelsville will be talking about it tomorrow night – Highland Park Action Committee has Nickelsville on the agenda again, 7 pm Wednesday at the Highland Park Improvement Club building, 12th/Holden.) Meantime – tons of holiday giving going on all over West Seattle this season – hooray for everyone’s generosity! We’ve listed some of the opportunities on the Holidays page, and there’s more in the pipeline – please let us know if you have a drive going on, or a request to share.
That’s Lee Bui, director of the Vietnamese Cultural Center in West Seattle, and daughter Lynda Bui. We photographed them late this morning at the encampment that calls itself Nickelsville – where a flock of volunteers from the Vietnamese community had come to provide both a feast …
… and flu shots (with the help of pharmacist Dr. Rosalie T. Nguyen)!
Lee Bui organized the huge Thanksgiving gift, explaining that every year, the center gets holiday solicitations for help, and usually donates money. But, he said, he drives by Nickelsville each day (taking his wife to work) – and after stopping to get a firsthand look, decided to organize something more meaningful this holiday season. (He says they’ll be back for Christmas, too.) The volunteers gathered under canopies for the operation; the only place to warm up was a campfire nearby:
The Vietnamese Cultural Center is in its sixth year of operation at 2236 SW Orchard just west of the Tug Inn, north of Home Depot; they’re open to the public for visits/tours noon-3 on Saturdays.
(P.S. A chance for you to help residents of Nickelsville is coming up on December 3, when Merrill Gardens-Admiral Heights has organized a “stuff the bus” event – here’s our recent report with details.)
More than 30 people came to tonight’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting – a “full house and a full agenda,” as co-chair Carolyn Stauffer put it, starting with the encampment that is technically within HPAC’s coverage area, on a site once proposed for the potential city jail that HPAC fought ferociously three years ago. The 2-part Nickelsville discussion bookended the meeting:
NICKELSVILLE, PART 1: As the meeting began, four people from the encampment, including staffer Scott Morrow, presented an update to HPAC. They recapped its history and its rules, and its quirks – “we have one pet coordinator, which happens to be me,” said Mike Stahl, the longtime WSB Forums member who moved there shortly after Nickelsville returned to West Seattle in May. They hope to have a permanent encampment of about 350 people, they said, and discussed their “small, simple, sturdy structures,” built as possible. They hope to have kitchen, laundry, and office services on site – and they say they’ve been told the City Council will vote in March on whether they can stay permanently (the land is owned by SDOT).
EDITOR’S NOTE: West Seattle Forum members have taken a special interest in the encampment that calls itself Nickelsville, since its return last May to the West Seattle site where it was founded three years ago, volunteering and donating. Among them are Joanne Brayden and Kevin McClintic, who have reported previously on events at the site. It’s been a while since their last story, so for those who are interested in what’s happening with that site – including two City Council meetings this week that may decide issues of importance to the encampment – here’s their newest contribution.
(One of the new “simple, sturdy structures” at Nickelsville)
Story by Joanne Brayden
Photos by Kevin McClintic
Special to West Seattle Blog
If you have driven by Nickelsville lately, in southeastern West Seattle, you may have noticed some changes. They have added a second gate on West Marginal Way, expanded into a second in-camp “neighborhood,” built a few more living structures, and this week, thanks to generous gravel donations from West Seattle residents, they have begun work on common pathways, to make them safe and as dry as possible this winter.
Like all communities, they are having a few growing pains as they figure out how to make their expanded neighborhoods work, but the contrast between the tents dumped in an open field in May and the community they have created is evidence that their process is producing results.
(Photos by Kevin McClintic)
Three years ago – on September 22, 2008 – we covered the sudden arrival of an encampment on a city-owned parcel in eastern West Seattle, calling itself “Nickelsville.” Days later, police were sent in to clear the site. After a subsequent odyssey through more than a dozen other sites, most of them not in West Seattle, the encampment – still calling itself “Nickelsville,” though the mayor’s office had a new occupant – returned to its original site this past May, and the current mayor decided to let the camp stay. For how long? The topic came up briefly at a recent City Council meeting, and the bottom line is that the city is still developing its policies regarding homeless encampments – so no change in the situation appears imminent.
So tomorrow (Saturday), Nickelsville is marking its third anniversary, and its residents welcome you to an open house/party from 3-5 pm, including roast pig that they’re putting on the rotisserie in a few hours. All are invited; they’ll also be cooking donated burgers and hot dogs. And they’re planning a Parade of Pets, so you are welcome to bring yours. More in this WSB Forums post. The encampment is on the northeastern corner of Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way SW.
In case you haven’t already seen this in the WSB Forums: The encampment that’s been on a city-owned site in easternmost West Seattle since mid-May, Nickelsville, hopes to raise some operating funds this Saturday with a benefit car wash. As posted by longtime WSB’er and current Nickelsville resident Mike (miws) in the Forums, it’ll be at Les Schwab Tires in SODO, 6111 4th Avenue South, 8 am-5 pm Saturday (August 27th). Cash donations accepted; they’ll use the money to cover ongoing operating expenses, particularly portable restrooms and trash service.
Four members of the Seattle City Council spent an hour-plus this afternoon at the encampment that’s called itself “Nickelsville” since its inception three years ago at the West Seattle site to which it returned in May. Our video above is the entire visit – an official meeting of the Housing (etc.) Committee – unedited, beginning after chair Councilmember Nick Licata convened the meeting and had members sign in at the camp’s front desk. (Also in attendance – Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Sally Clark, and Tom Rasmussen.)
First, everyone got a guided tour of the camp, from the kitchen area near the entrance, to the two goats’ grazing area on the eastern end. It currently has 91 residents, camp leaders say. Then, there was a sitdown roundtable discussion. A few headlines emerged: Operation Sack Lunch plans to start bringing lunches to Nickelsville five days a week starting next Monday; the camp is asking the city to help them get hooked up with utilities – not with paying for them, just with getting them hooked up. They also are waiting to hear the city’s longterm intent on whether they will be able to stay at that location; as we first reported shortly after their return to the site, Mayor McGinn said he would not seek eviction, but the Council has not taken a formal position.
The tour stopped short of this noteworthy sight:
That’s the play equipment procured and installed thanks to the efforts of WSB Forums members, who have taken a special interest in – and have been providing lots of help to – Nickelsville and its residents, who include longtime Forums member/WSB commenter “miws” Mike. He has just taken on a brand-new Nickelsville position, pet coordinator; you’ll see him in our video too (he and others in leadership positions got a chance to explain their work to the visitors). As for who will use the swing set – four children are among the camp’s current residents, councilmembers were told.
Before last weekend is too much further in the rear-view mirror, an acknowledgment of an event that WSB Forums members made happen: The potluck that wrapped up an open-house afternoon at the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville,” now back on a previously vacant city-owned site on the southeastern edge of West Seattle. Forums member Kevin McClintic, who collaborated with member Joanne Brayden on three previous reports about the camp (here, here, and here), shares the photos, and this report:
Despite gray skies and intermittent rain, the Nickelsville Potluck was a great success thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. The camp had set up several open rain shelters, but they were not needed. The rain managed to stay away for the duration of the event.
This was no hot-dog-and-hamburger event. The food was first class. There were more than two dozen individual contributors who brought some outstanding homemade entrees. One generous contributor brought several dozen steaks, intended specifically for the residents.
According to Nickelsville resident/WSB Forums member Mike (miws), they were still eating leftovers on Sunday, and still snacking on homemade cookies and treats into the first of the week.
Pictured in the group photo from left to right (Scott and Peggy are Nickelsville staff. Everyone else, Nickelsville friends): Scott Morrow, JoB, Peggy Hotes, Linda, miws, the jamjets, EmmyJane, Rod Clark, angelescrest and her daughter, and Dennis Reilly (kneeling in front row)
Thanks to Kevin for the report/photos. Meantime, Nickelsville discussion, and lists of donated items the camp is seeking, can be found, ongoing, along with other topics, in the WSB Forums.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Part 1 of this two-part report, detailing a recent security incident at the Highland Park Way/W. Marginal Way camp, can be found here.)
Story by Joanne Brayden
Photos by Kevin McClintic
Special to West Seattle Blog
Nickelsville is a self-managed homeless encampment that recently moved back to vacant city-owned land in the industrial area on the southeastern fringe of West Seattle. It is easy to dismiss it as just another collection of tents harboring those who opt out of a more structured life. But the portable toilets and dumpster in the parking lot, along with the security tent just inside the camp, tell a different story.
Obviously someone is in charge here – but it’s not any one particular person.
Story by Joanne Brayden
Photo by Kevin McClintic
Special to West Seattle Blog
The incident that sparked this story began when a West Seattle resident reported in the comments section of this recent WSB report, “So You Think You Know Who’s at Nickelsville?”, that an automatic notification had informed her/him that a registered sex offender living in the vicinity of the camp that moved back to eastern WS three weeks ago today.
At first glance, that report and how Nickelsville rapidly responded to it seemed to be all there was to tell, but this story, like all tales of human interaction with bureaucracy, turns out to be much more complex than anticipated.
I confess, as the person breaking the story of WSB Forums member Mike’s move to Nickelsville, I was inclined to dismiss the initial comment about a sex offender living at Nickelsville as one of the many Not In My Back Yard reactions to the homeless camp, but as the evening progressed, the probable offender was identified.
If you don’t frequent the WSB Forums, you’ve missed members’ updates on the “Nickelsville” homeless camp that is now in its third week at the same city-owned West Seattle site where it was founded three years ago. Though the city administration then led by its namesake booted the camp in 2008, leading to a series of moves, Mayor McGinn is not planning to try to evict it, as reported here two weeks ago.
Shortly after that report, two Forum members told the story of a third who became homeless and is now living at the camp, and that led to questions about how to help. Several discussions have followed, including updates from new Nickelsville resident Mike, and now a bigger event is being organized: A June 18th potluck dinner. The plan is taking shape here; to feed the estimated 100 residents, plus visitors, is a big order, but with many participants, each contributor won’t have to add much. If you can provide food but can’t take it to the camp yourself, arrangements are also being made to help with that. As for other ways in which people are helping out – check out this Forums thread; the water supply is even receiving assistance (and another update is here). More updates to come, including a two-part report on Nickelsville security by Joanne Brayden and Kevin McClintic (who took the 5/16 photo reused here), who previously told the story of Mike’s move.
(Photo by Kevin McClintic, taken Monday evening)
Five days have now passed since the homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” returned to the eastern West Seattle site where it began almost three years ago, at West Marginal Way SW/Highland Park Way (as reported here Friday afternoon). Its first stay there in 2008 ended with city leaders sending in Seattle Police to evict the campers, but that’s not going to happen this time, according to Mayor McGinn‘s office. We had asked his spokesperson Aaron Pickus yesterday about whether the mayor would seek to remove the camp as his predecessor had done, and the answer came back a little while ago: No. Pickus’s reply in its entirety:
We will not seek their eviction. By way of context, this site was originally a candidate for a new City Jail. We recently made a long-term agreement with King County that ensures we don’t have a to build a jail, though.
Last year, we proposed a plan for a safe, city-sanctioned place for an encampment to the City Council. While the Council has decided to not act on that plan, they have committed to weigh in on an alternative location by July. And we remain open to their ideas.
The camp had been at a former fire station in Lake City prior to its somewhat-surprise move last Friday. We’re checking with Nickelsville’s media liaison for their reaction; the newest statement on their website gives no indication that they had heard this previously, as it includes the entreaty: “Please let us stay. Let us create a community Seattle can be proud of. Attached is our plan for our home. All we ask from City Government is this land, and access to nearby utilities. We respectfully ask you and your able Deputy to negotiate with us.”
10:15 PM UPDATE: Through Nickelsville’s media liaison, their official reaction to the mayor’s decision to “not seek their eviction”:
It’s a relief that we can stay. Mayor McGinn’s administration recognizes the value of an organization like Nickelsville. It’s also particularly gratifying that, after 16 moves we can stay put for awhile and people can feel some security. And now we can have the dream of Nickelsville come to reality: a safe, organized eco-village that will ultimately shelter up to a thousand people.
3:58 PM: After another faceoff with the city over a permanent site, the homeless encampment that still calls itself “Nickelsville“ has packed up and moved again, and just sent an announcement that its new location is on West Marginal Way in West Seattle, near the intersection with Highland Park Way (map), where the camp had put down stakes before. They’ve been headquartered at the former Fire Station 39 in Lake City, and the city reportedly was ready to let them stay there at least a few more months, but their news release proclaims, “We moved anyway!” for a variety of reasons, including that they needed more space, and they think city leaders are just stringing them along. The address is the same as the one where the camp first set up in September 2008 (WSB coverage here).
7:06 PM: We went over about an hour and a half ago to see what’s happening at the site, and took the photos we have just added (above, 3 of the 4 trucks a camp manager told us they’re using – one was still in transit from Lake City when we stopped by). There were about 50 people in view, and the piles of belongings, pallets and other materials you see in our top photo; one person was wondering aloud when spaces would be assigned. The camp manager told us they should be all set up by tomorrow. No word thus far from the city – who owned this site last time we checked (which is why Seattle Police were used to evict campers back in 2008) – on how this will be dealt with, if at all.