Remember Nickelsville?

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    My crystal ball tells me that Nickelsville’s days at the bottom of Highland Park Hill are numbered.

    How does my crystal ball know this?

    Well, first there was the September 26 WS Blog weekly report, which included information from the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) describing their efforts to pressure the City Council into relocating the camp to a safer, and/or more permanent site:

    Highland Park Action Committee: ‘The Hum’ update; Nickelsville vow

    Then there was this October 4 story about Food Lifeline eyeing the Nickelsville land for a warehouse:

    Will homeless-camp site become donated-food warehouse site? Food Lifeline eyes ‘Nickelsville’ location

    Finally, inside sources tell me that the non-profit group running the camp has agreed in principle that it has to move. Accordingly, they have been searching for alternative sites.

    All these things, in addition to the chronically unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the camp, which I’ve seen for myself, lead me to believe that a change is imminent. I expect a decision will be made within the next six months and that the camp will be gone from its current location by summer of next year, if not sooner.

    If you care about Nickelsville, now is the time to get involved in the process of helping to decide its future. In the next post I’m including some information that HPAC sent to its membership recently. It restates HPAC’s position and identifies the Mayor and Councilmember Licata as the point people on the future of Nickelsville. I plan on contacting both the Mayor and Mr. Licata about this issue, and when I do I’m going to say the follosing:

    ► If you’re going to let NV stay where it’s at, you need to build sanitary facilities there for people to use.

    ► If you’re not going to build facilities there, then you should find an alternative location that does have such facilities.




    Recent e-mail from HPAC below. They had invited Councilmember Licata to address their next meeting this Wednesday (October 24), but he was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. I plan on going to the meeting anyway, though.

    Nickelsville: We just spoke with the Mayor’s office about Nickelsville. We’ve been fielding questions and concerns daily about the encampment. The mayor’s office has asked DPD to search for potential temporary sites for Nickelsville, and they are working on identifying some. Nick Licata will meet with the Mayor “soon” to discuss options for Nickelsville, who have expressed a willingness to move if an appropriate site is located. The Food Lifeline interest in the property is real and pressing, the city is looking into it. We feel that between pressure from the impending weather, pressure from folks ready to see another neighborhood have a turn hosting the encampment, pressure from folks that would like to see a more appropriate site for the encampment that includes water and electricity, and pressure from Food Lifeline… we may finally be seeing some changes soon. So now is a good and appropriate time to contact the Mayor’s office and Nick Licata’s office if you’d like to see some changes for Nickelsville. We at HPAC will be passing on the comments from our survey, again, so don’t feel the need to rewrite what we’ve already asked you to write. But if you didn’t get a chance to participate in that survey or have something you’d like to say to our political leaders about Nickelsville, NOW IS THE TIME!!

    Email the Mayor:

    Email Councilman Licata: or call 206-684-8803

    Next HPAC meeting: Wednesday, October 24, 6:30 potluck, 7:00 meeting at the Highland Park Improvement Club on 12th and Holden.





    I agree that Nickelsville’s days at their present site are numbered…

    And that it will likely move sooner rather than later to a new spot

    but i think it unlikely that the new spot will be one provided by the city

    even if the city provides a viable alternative



    If the City provides a truly viable alternative, Nickelsville will have no choice but to go there. If they don’t, they won’t be able to seek refuge elsewhere, because no neighborhood would tolerate a homeless camp in their midst so long as there is a better alternative.

    No, the reason NV was allowed to hole up as long as it did here was precisely because the City couldn’t get its act together and provide homeless people with a good alternative. The Lake City Fire Station was NOT a good alternative, and the City knew that, in spite of their words to the contrary.

    In any event, we should keep the pressure on the Mayor and Council to do the right thing. Now, when the place is in transition, is the best time to effect a change.

    Keep watching this space.



    Here’s the text of an e-mail sent by a South Park neighborhood group to the Mayor and Mr. Licata. It is a public record:

    From: Dagmar Cronn

    Date: Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Subject: Food Lifeline needs to move to Nickelsville site

    To: Nick Licata <>, Mayor McGinn <>

    Food Lifeline is interested in consolidating their two sites into one and have identified the City property where Nickelsville is currently situated. The South Park Neighborhood Center has done its best to provide services to the Nickelsville residents without City support. The Neighborhood Center houses the Providence Regina House Food and Clothing Bank and a breakfast meal program five days a week. Our services are only a stop-gap attempt to help. The majority of conversations on the South Park social media sites show a consensus that the City should assume responsibility to find a more permanent solution for the residents of Nickelsville that provides running water, bathroom facilities, electricity, etc.. Food Lifeline should have its new site in South Seattle because so much of their food distributions are in the south end.

    We are indebted to our Highland Park neighbors for spearheading the initiative to urge Seattle to step up to do the right thing for neighborhoods, non-profits and the homeless. We earnestly endorse their message and bond with them in our wish that Seattle will bring about a good outcome for all involved.

    Please do your utmost to make the present site available to Food Lifeline without shoving the Nickelsville residents once again to somewhere inadequate to their needs.

    We know there are so many issues facing our elected officials and we are thankful you will give this your attention and find a solution for all concerned.

    Dagmar Cronn

    President, South Park Area Redevelopment Committee

    [Address and phone info redacted by DBP]




    A West Seattleite who’s been keeping me in the loop tells me that earlier this month someone contacted the Seattle-King County Public Health Department with a complaint about rats at Nickelsville. I’ve never seen a rat there myself. However, I have heard residents talk about the rat problem. Many times.

    According to my source, the Health Dept. “confirmed the rodent problem at the camp, and a very detailed report with recommendations has been sent to the encampment and shared with the Mayor’s office.”


    Rats are just one of the health risks at Nickelsville, and in my opinion they are not even the most pressing. (There are also the little problems of no safe drinking water, inadequate sewage facilities, and young children in the camp, among others.) However, the rat report might be the spark that finally lights a fire under the City’s butt. As you know, it’s the City that is ultimately responsible for fixing any health-related problems that occur on its own property, and it’s the City that can be fined or sued if it fails to take action on these problems.


    According to my source, the Health Dept’s report, as well as options for Nickelsville generally, will be discussed by the Mayor and Councilmember Nick Licata on November 13. I don’t know whether this is a public meeting. It might not be.

    As I said above, this would be a good time to contact either of these guys and let them know what you think about the issue.



    Here’s the combined rodent + sanitation report on Nickelsville, as compiled by Seattle King County Public Health. A copy was sent to me by Nick Licata’s office a few days ago:

    For those of you who go down to camp frequently, the report will confirm what you already know: that the place is dirty and infested with rats.

    For the rest of you, this info may come as a bit of an eye-opener. But then, perhaps that’s just what you needed. An eye-opener.


    Conditions at the camp have always been good for rats, and it’s only getting worse, as the report shows. Moreover, as the rat population booms, the rats are becoming ever bolder about getting into the tents and the food supplies (including the pet food supplies.)


    As you can see, the report’s author is looking at the situation dispassionately and making recommendations as if this were a typical industrial-type site and the owner wanted to do the right thing and clean it up. In this case, however, it is unlikely that many of these recommendations will be implemented. Of if they are implemented, it will be only temporarily.

    ► Rotating tent sites?

    ► Elevating tents with cinder blocks?

    ► Putting all food in rodent-proof containers (!)

    ► No more food “composting” (!!)

    Come on! If this stuff was doable, don’t you think they would have dood it already?

    And the list goes on and on and on.

    There are other kinds of recommendations, too. And these are targeted at food safety and general hygiene. The hygiene part reads like a list of “Everything SHARE and the City should have done.” Or “Everything DBP (and others) TOLD you guys to do from the git-go.”

    Hand-washing stations with warm water and soap? Well . . . Duh!

    –Given that the City itself has no intention of plumbing or wiring the place, I can’t imagine how this warm-water handwashing station concept could be actualized. And why would it be, when the City doesn’t even WANT that?


    No timeline is given for any of these recommendations to be implemented, even though by law I think there should have been one. Some items are marked as “Do Immediately” but there’s no indication of what will happen if they aren’t “done immediately.”


    My take on this report is as follows:

    1) Short term – the City is responding to a complaint made by a citizen, but they’re acting as if they initiated the complaint on their own so as to make it look like they’re on top of things, which in fact they never have been.

    2) Long term – the City is building a case on which to shut down the camp.

    Watch this space.


    Betty T

    Thanks for all the info . I surely will watch for more.

    A passing thought: When Food Lifeline begins construction on the site, where will all these rats go?

    I understand they are out at night, and big.



    The health department visited Nickelsville and informed the city that they needed to take care of the rat problem.

    i was told that bait was distributed last week.



    There is opposition from residents to using bait at the camp, which is understandable. In any case, bait won’t work. It’s just window dressing.

    Sorry to be such a downer.



    pardon me if i sound naive, but has anyone asked city government how much empty public school property we’re sitting on right now? those are facilities that not only have running hot and cold water, but they also have roofs, gym showers (i presume), and kitchen facilities.

    it occurs to me that residents could be used to help maintain the facility and keep it free from vandalism and other nefarious after-dark activities as a condition of living there. a guaranteed 10 hours of work per week, at minimum wage, maybe?

    i would think that just one of those properties would accommodate the city’s needs, and it could provide residents opportunities for building skill sets in maintenance and light construction. perhaps some of our local business leaders in those fields could volunteer some supervisory time in exchange for tax breaks or something.

    fairmount elementary comes to mind…




    i believe the city was responsible for the extensive baiting program…

    and the residents are very grateful for the decrease in the rat population.

    i can tell you that i didn’t see any swimmers down there today.




    i think that’s a fine idea.

    perhaps the publicity from the flooding will be enough to make the city step up on this..

    i wouldn’t count on it..

    but there is always hope.

    after all, they let Nickelsville run the pilot program on the 24 hour shelter at an empty fire station a couple of years ago.

    that pilot program was successful enough that when Nickeslville chose not to continue there, the city funded a second pilot program.. i think through the Union Gospel Mission.. last year.

    i don’t know if that 24 hour shelter is open again this winter..

    but that is one of the many questions i intend to find an answer to.



    redblack…I sent a note to the mayor last year about empty city property to be re-purposed for the use of Interim to Extend stay facilities…

    Got a fluff email back – very non-committal. “Thanks for your concern…” B.S.!

    Without knowing specifics…business have vacated Thousands of square feet sitting empty…with or with rooms…most with utility, heat, and basic facilities. Not all with showers…

    It could all be organized, self-managed, policed, and maintained by the occupants with just a little city oversight to inspect the site regularly.

    Cannot understand how there are Emergency Management Programs run by the City where these sites and others would be used IMMEDIATELY during large scale outages…but NOT now?

    At what point was homelessness not an emergency?



    someone reposted something on facebook that indicates that the city has delivered some emergency supplies to help them get the tents our of the water to Nickelsville.

    i am headed down there now.

    i will let you know if that rumor is true.

    it would be a start.



    If I remember correctly, one issue with the city ‘officially’ donating a space to Nickelsville was that then they become responsible (read: can be sued) for any injuries, etc. that happen at the shelter they donate.

    Not sure how much of a real issue that is, as there are homeless shelters that don’t seem to have that issue, but that’s what I remember.



    ok.. i just got back from Nickelsville.

    The city had dropped off concrete blocks toplace under tent pallets .. which were promised earlier as one of the rat population control measures..

    along with metal garbabge cans for food storage which were in service in the kitchen tent as i left.



    Drove my there tonight, there is a bunch of media trucks including King5.



    I was there around 5 and King 5 was filming at the front gate.

    i slid in and out at the side gate ;->

    they are accepting donations at both gates.

    they really could use hand warmers for the people who are managing the sump pumps. that’s very cold wet work with no place to warm your hands back up.


    Betty T

    I was told last winter that the little handwarmers are used in their shoes too to keep feet warm.

    I saw the bright shiney garbage cans last Saturday when I was there.



    Update: After waiting more than six weeks for Councilmember Licata and Mayor McGinn to get back to me on my initial e-mail, I started pestering them.

    I’ll have an official response from King County Public Health on the rat problem shortly and will be getting something about the whole NV issue from the Mayor’s office sometime after that.

    In the meantime, I’m waiting breathlessly for Mr. Licata to return from Christmas break.


    Preliminarily, it looks like I was wrong about the rat thing; the City is taking it seriously. Good for them. Meanwhile, the larger question of what will become of Nickelsville is still hanging out there, and I’m hoping the City will realize that if they don’t do something they may well end up spending more effort on rat control (and damage control) than they would’ve had to spend just finding a safe, permanent home for Nickelsville in the first place.



    i suspect they will do what they can to keep people alive there until the weather improves…

    Nickelsville is just the tip of the illegal encampment iceburg…

    the city simply doesn’t supply enough shelter beds for those who need shelter in this weather..

    and too many of those beds are contracted out through SHARE

    the agency that also happens to “employ” contractor Scott Morrow

    Nickelsville’s unpaid adviser

    this is all so much more complicated than it would seem.. isn’t it.



    >>this is all so much more complicated than it would seem.. isn’t it.

    Yes it is complicated. But one of the reasons it’s complicated is because the City didn’t step up earlier when some of these complications could’ve been prevented.

    Rats are an example of a preventable complication. The City is now spending money on rat control that would’ve been put to better use putting in beds and a roof at some permanent location.

    You speak of the greenbelt, but that situation was preventable too. As you well know, many of the people toughing it out in the greenbelt are only there because of the unaccountable way in which the camp has been run. Some of those folks would almost certainly be in housing by now if the City had taken timely steps to get NV under effective City oversight.

    I’ll address the “adviser” issue tomorrow, but I would ask you to please refrain from naming any individuals connected with the camp – even if they have some quasi-official role there. People at the City are now definitely watching this thread, and I don’t want them to get spooked and stop cooperating with us. Thanks.



    wow…and a very Merry Christmas to you, too, DBP. You’re actually dumping on JoB for naming Mr. Morrow? It’s no secret that he’s the head guy, so please get off your high horse. If I remember correctly, it took quite a few people to change your mind about NV. In the beginning you were totally against it. And now it’s your baby to advise the rest of us?

    No, no, no, no, no. Thank you for coming to NV’s defense, but please, don’t take an attitude about it.

    Copy of a letter from the Mayor to me:

    Thank you for your letter regarding the encampment called “Nickelsville” and the plight of homeless people in Seattle. I share your concerns and it has been a top priority since I became Mayor to improve the City’s support and services for homeless people.

    I have directed City departments to work with people overseeing and living in the encampment and explore how we can improve the conditions at this site. In the past several weeks, staff members from the Human Services Department, Facilities and Administrative Services, Seattle Public Utilities, and Public Health – Seattle & King County have been at the encampment site. We have taken steps to address problems including improving food storage, disposal of garbage, and protecting people from rain and flooding.

    The City’s 2013 adopted budget includes more than $1 million in additional services for homeless people, $980,000 of which was in the Mayor’s proposed 2013 budget. These additional services are targeted to homeless families with children as well as outreach and case management aimed at helping homeless people to receive the support and services necessary to get them into stable housing.

    We have also been working to find a more lasting solution. In 2010 and 2011, I proposed to the City Council that the City establish an ongoing sanctioned encampment at the former Sunny Jim peanut butter factory site in SODO. This encampment would have offered an alternative site with eating facilities and services to help encampment residents to be on a path to permanent housing. Unfortunately, the Council did not act on my proposal.

    In 2011, I worked with the City Council to adopt an ordinance to allow community shelters on property owned or managed by faith-based organizations. We were successful and the ordinance includes standards for shelters operated at religious sites.

    Earlier this year, I proposed additional legislation to allow transitional encampments at non-religious private property and public sites. This legislation also would have established standards for these encampments. The City Council has not taken any action on my proposal.

    The City is working on many fronts to prevent and reduce homelessness, yet we continue to see many more people, including families, without stable housing. There have to be multiple strategies to help people. I will continue to explore solutions with the City Council and our community partners to provide better alternatives for homeless people and to help them transition out of homelessness and into permanent housing. It is clear to me that government alone cannot end homelessness. We need all of us working together to solve this problem.

    Thank you again for writing. Please feel free to write me again on this or any other issue.


    Mike McGinn

    Mayor of Seattle

    for the record…I can go nowhere near NV because I have an extremely low immune system, and I can’t possibly allow myself to be exposed to whatever may be lurking down there. The people who live there often have iffy “good” health, just because of the environment and lack of good medical care. So I stay away.

    But there are many people who care about the people there..the more the better. The city will pay attention.




    “I’ll address the “adviser” issue tomorrow, but I would ask you to please refrain from naming any individuals connected with the camp – even if they have some quasi-official role there. People at the City are now definitely watching this thread, and I don’t want them to get spooked and stop cooperating with us. Thanks.”

    sorry DBP.. but you have caught me in one of my brutally frank periods.. bullpucky!

    The silence of those who know what is going on inside that camp and remain silent to “protect” the residents has not led to better conditions inside Nickeslville.

    the only thing that has led to better living conditions within that camp is the light of public exposure..

    As for not naming Scott Morrow? How do you think anyone can understand the political circumstances that have left people living in a known containment pond without mentioning Scott Morrow who made the deliberate choice to move them there

    and feared revolt from the campers so much that they were loaded into vans for the move without being told where they were going?

    How can anyone understand the bind the city is in with Nickelsville without understanding that Scott Morrow controls a huge number of the city’s shelter beds and regularly locks people out of them to secure city funding?

    How can anyone effectively help Nickelsville without understanding that although the camp has regular nightly meetings that are supposed to create self government

    the agenda at those meetings is controlled by Scott Morrow and/or Peggy Hoates and that any decision made by campers that is against the strictures those two lay down results in the threat of removing porta-potties and garbage that are paid for by donations to Nickelsville…

    You can’t help people without understanding the reality of the choices they have to make to survive …

    and Scott Morrow definately defines much of that reality for the homeless people in Seattle.

    The shame is that the mayors office and the city council are fully aware of the reality of living conditions within that camp and the farce that is called self government within it and have allowed it to continue.

    As for the people in our greenbelt… they would be there whether Nickelsville existed or not because they have no other place to go.

    it’s that simple.

    all of those “services” ordinary citizens rely on to help those who can’t help themselves.. they are are way overburdened and barely keep up with the need of those who have support systems to help them navigate the labyrinth of contradictory requirements for assistance….

    next time you drive by the city’s other greenbelts.. take a closer look and you will see that out greenbelt is not the only one that is inhabited.

    The rain has arrived and the temperature has dropped and yet the population living in our greenbelts hasn’t…

    there is a reason for that.

    and it has little to do with lifestyle choices.

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