Remember Nickelsville?

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    I am glad you feel empathy.. but..

    feeling empathy won’t keep anyone alive when they don’t have shelter and the temperature drops

    it won’t keep people fed.

    it won’t take them to the doctor when they become ill

    it won’t help them connect with social services

    feeling empathy won’t keep people who find themselves homeless from being victimized by those who prey on the homeless

    including but certainly not limited to those who manage homeless shelters

    that takes action

    Now you might think that statement self righteous…

    but that would be your perception, not my reality.

    My reality mirrors that of the others I speak with who actually spend time in Nickelsville..

    we are overwhelmed with the enormity of the problem

    and with the resistance of those who manage Nickelsville to apply simple common sense solutions to many of the problems found there

    and with the political reality that makes those homeless people more politically useful to both sides of the coin when their living conditions worsen

    we are overwhelmed at the need

    and crushed when the help we offer doesn’t solve the problem we perceived

    but self righteous? no. not that.

    or unwilling to have others come look with fresh eyes and apply new solutions?

    no… not that either.

    speaking purely for myself jimmyG..

    i have to point out that speaking up about Nickelsville doesn’t indicate ownership

    but concern.

    i don’t care who the people are who are camped at the bottom of my hill in a containment pond.

    they are still people camped at the bottom of my hill in a containment pond

    who are denied services both by the city and by those who manage their camp.

    That needs to change

    but if i .. or other people like me who have actively worked with the residents or advocated throught he political system for them had the answer..

    Nickelsville would no longer exist…

    investing in something or someone is not the same thing as owning



    I spoke with Councilmember Nick Licata directly yesterday. It took months for me to get this guy to call me, but by using classic Seattle passive-aggressive techniques, I finally prevailed.

    Unfortunately, I can’t tell you everything he said, because there are sensitive negotiations in progress, but here’s the gist of it, including, as always, a goodly share of my own artful interpretation:


    ¶ Mr. Licata has forthrightly approached the City Council on the Nickelsville issue, and the majority feeling there is that Nickelsville is not sustainable. (As a matter of fact, they don’t like encampments on City property in general, which we know from reading the newspapers.)

    At the same time, the majority on the Council want the Food Lifeline project to go ahead, as does the Mayor. We all know that Nickelsville will have a hard time standing against that, because Food Lifeline helps poor people. So the City obviously has some political leverage there . . .

    Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Food Lifeline wants to break ground this fall, and they will need two months of lead time to prepare the site before they start building.


    ¶ Mr. Licata has asked Nickelsville (read: SHARE/WHEEL) to give the City a move-out date so the City can start planning for relocation, but so far NV has declined, insisting that the City has to find a place for them first. As far as that goes, the options are no different now than they have been since the beginning, to wit:


    -Other existing encampments

    -Some other city property (subject to permit)

    For whatever reason, NV doesn’t like any of those options, and as a result they have not given the Council a move-out date. This means that unless someone comes up with a better plan between now and summer, there’s going to be a showdown.

    So that would be SHARE/WHEEL’s leverage, I guess: forcing the City’s hand on a mass eviction, complete with TV cameras.


    ¶ Regarding the proposal to permit and legalize NV-style encampments (which I now understand was put forth by both Mayor McGinn and Nick Licata) there’s just not enough support on the Council to move forward with that. Even NV had problems with it, calling it too “restrictive.” So for now, it’s a dead letter.


    ¶ Mr. Licata is still trying to come up with a plan. He would like the NV to explore the option of moving outside the City limits where visibility, land-use restrictions, and other code issues would not be as much of a problem. He said that Portland offers a good model of such an encampment (more on this later) but even that idea is not without its problems. Seattle is not Portland, and wherever NV goes, you still need to have access to services such as bus lines. Anyway, that idea, even if it works out, could still be several months down the road, and we may not have that much time.


    I’m glad Mr. Licata finally called me. I know he’s a good man, a capable man, and after talking with him, I have much greater sympathy for what he has to deal with here. But I still want him and our other city leaders to step up and lead us out of this mess.

    Before I let him go, I expressed my frustration with the City over the NV issue and asked him why he and his peers weren’t showing more leadership on this. He chuckled, but I could hear the frustration in his voice, loud and clear:

    “To be a leader, you need followers,” he said, “and right now I’m having a hard time finding any of those.”


    –I’ll follow you, Nick. As long as you do everything I say.



    btw.. just for clarity

    Nickelsville is not self managed…

    yes, there are nightly meetings and a central committee that meets weekly

    but the content and direction of the conversation at those meetings is carefully controlled by someone whose interest lies with the politics of homelessness and not the welfare of the homeless people who live in Nickelsville.

    I have personally witnessed that person threaten to remove sanitary facilities and resources from the camp if the committee didn’t endorse his recommendations…

    those weren’t empty threats.

    when the eastside homeless camp managed by SHARE voted to allow random wants and warrants checks on residents … at the request of the congregation hosting them following the discovery of an active sexual predator in camp…

    SHARE showed up with truck to confiscate the property of the camp…

    everything but the clothing and personal property of the campers..

    tents, tarps, food, food storage containers, etc…

    That is the reality. Residents do as they are told or their homes are literally taken from them.

    Consultant Scott Morrow takes care to keep his fingers as clear as possible of any paper trail, but he is management at both SHARE and Nickelsville and the only difference between the two organizations is that there is actually some city and host oversight of the two homeless encampments that SHARE runs.

    The fiction that Nickelsville is not a SHARE facility is politically useful,

    so it is maintained by both the city and Scott Morrow…

    but it is not the reality.

    SHARE members have voting rights at the central committee meetings governing Nickelsville and are run by the rules governing the other SHARE encampments.

    the resident management of the SHARE encampments move from management position to management position in the various camps on a regular basis… all supposedly elected by the residents.

    I have listened to Scott at meetings and Scott Morrow is one persuasive fellow.

    But he doesnt’ need to be that persuasive when he holds the safety of campers shelter in his hands.. not only at Nickelsville but in all of the SHARE shelters….

    I believe SHARE is the largest provider of shelter beds in King County.

    That means that Scott Morrow pretty much controls access to shelter beds for the majority of this city’s homeless people.

    I learned all of this and more by becoming involved both at Nickelsville and in the political process…

    and quickly realized that i wasn’t going to be able to do any short term good for the residents of Nickelsville by spending my limited energy within the political process.

    but there is a great deal that could be done through the political process by a concerned group of citizens.

    As citizens, I personally believe we can be most effective by turning our eyes on places like Nickelsville…

    whether on the ground by becoming a regular visitor to the camps

    or through the political process..

    the more citizen oversight the less likely politics will be able to indefinitely stall solutions



    Here’s a new one:

    It should be noted, that some of the self-righteous posters here on WSB that seem to think they “own” the issue of NV put many of us off from ever wanting to help out. I know this from conversations I’ve had with friends and neighbors here in WS.

    –Oh, so THAT’S what put you and your pals off from helping? Because of something WE said?

    Ha! Can’t ya just see it? JimmyG and his neighbors are all lined up, rarin’ to go down to NV and pitch in . . . when SUDDENLY someone on the Blog utters a self-righteous remark and blows the whole deal.

    Dude, I’ve heard some pretty lame-assed excuses for not getting involved, but this really takes the cake . . .

    “Self-righteous people on the Blog make me not want to help the homeless.”






    DBP…thanks for articulating what I was thinking..



    You’re welcome, Jan. Good karma to you!


    Now I want to say something about my general attitude to NV and the people living there. This is a complex issue, I know, and it’s easy for people to lose track of where I’m coming from.

    1) I’m for EVERYONE having a warm, safe place to sleep, decent food, and medical care.

    Druggies, winos, criminals . . . I couldn’t give a rip about where you’re coming from. Every human being deserves a place to sleep, food, and health care.


    2) I do NOT agree with the idea of requiring every homeless person to be in a shelter. I’ve visited shelters, I’ve lived in them, and I fully understand why some people do not do well there.


    3) I believe that the City SHOULD support large encampments. However . . .

    a) There has to be a process. Neighborhoods should have input into where those encampments are located, and

    b) City should have MUCH MORE oversight over the encampments. They should not be the squalid, free-for-all deals that NV has become. There should be service providers on-site (or in close touch) and any non-profits involved in running the camps should be on a very short leash, unlike SHARE/WHEEL.


    4) Encampments should be only for those folks who have a good reason for not wanting to be in a shelter. Example: Active drug addiction or treatment-resistant mental illness. The camps should not be places where you can have children or other vulnerable people. That’s why the City has to be involved with running them.


    Chances are good that the City will not agree with my vision on this. At least not yet. Failing that, though, I’m still trying to work out something where we can just get the major players to sit down at the table and start negotiating in good faith.

    I’m tired of all the politics and brinkmanship and I don’t want to see a mass eviction at NV. I want to see a smooth transition that is supported by ALL the parties affected, including:

    ► The City

    ► Highland Parkers


    ► Nickelodeons

    I hope this clarifies where I stand.




    i doubt the city has a problem with your view on legal encampments…

    it’s the illegal encampments that are a problem.



    As of right now (and into the forseeable future) there’s really no such thing as a “legal encampment.”

    Tent City? -Yes

    Encampment? -No

    As I’ve reported above, the McGinn-Licata legislation to establish an encampment permitting process never got off the ground.

    In the meantime, according to a recent Seattle Times piece, the City “neither approves or disapproves” of outdoor encampments.

    Well now isn’t THAT convenient?


    The Encampent Twilight Zone Policy allows the City the flexibility to use encampments as a pressure-relief valve for an inadequate homeless response system. And the best part of all? –There’s no strings attached. If things go south at an encampment you can just clear everyone off.

    Cuz after all . . . they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.

    Tricky, huh?

    But they ain’t foolin’ DBP.



    wow…I love semantics…

    1. group of tents over —-> here: encampment

    2. group of tents over

    > there: not an encampment, but a tent city..

    clarification..yep :-



    It actually goes a little deeper than that, Jan. What makes a Tent City a Tent City is that it is on church property and is overseen by the church. (It can be managed by SHARE/WHEEL, but SHARE/WHEEL is subject to church rules, as I understand it.)

    Moreover, there are better food and sanitary facilities handy at a Tent City.

    Jo knows a lot more than I do on this issue, but I know there are significant differences between the two things.



    I understand all of that, DBP. I am not naive about this…I was just making a joke…lighten up. I certainly hope this doesn’t mean I can’t ever post anything after you make a post. I will wait a few posts from now on ;-)



    Sorry, Jan. I really thought you didn’t understand that. I have to be honest: the terminology is confusing to me.

    And I assume it’s confusing to other people as well. So that’s why I responded that way. No offense taken or given (I hope).




    the tent cities are not overseen by their hosts..

    they are hosted.. church’s provide the space

    although the host church generally does make an effort to interact with the tent city while they are camped at their church

    they are not overseen by the host church

    in fact, tent city residents are required to attend services at churches other than the hosting church

    to build relationships that will provide future tent city hosts

    the benefit to the residents of being hosted by a church is that while a camp is hosted at a church it is more likely that church members will interact with the camp and with individuals.. which means there is informal oversight that would not otherwise exist…

    in addition, i believe both tent cities have outside volunteer organizations that interact with the tent cities on a regular basis, regardless of where they are hosted.

    I believe that the core of one of those organizations has been instrumental in backing Camp Unity when it broke off from The tent city on the eastside…

    i get the numbers on the two tent cities mixed up..

    I believe this is the largest moderating factor that Nickelsville lacks. Even though some of the church organizations who currently volunteer at Nickelsville do communicate with one another, there is no central basis for communication and coordination..

    and more important, no central basis for sharing the information seen by the informal eyes who visit Nickeslville.

    I did try to form a charitable organization to do just that..

    but my health deteriorated and in spite of a couple of volunteers who were putting together a killer website, i was unable to get it off the ground.

    The same church that put Nickelsville’s meal calendar on the web is trying to do something similar for the camp volunteers.

    It just now occurred to me that i ought to get the web developers and that church together since i believe i am still paying for hosting that partially constructed site…

    anyway.. you asked for clarification of the difference between the tent cities and encampments..

    as i understand it…

    tent cities are pretty much regulated by existing state law which i believe requires a church related host…

    encampments on the other hand .. if the mayor’s proposal had been adapted… could have been hosted by any organization that had a two year continuous track record of successfully hosting homeless people…

    The bad news is that given the time limitations for the existing statutes for legal encampments, the proposed legislation drastically narrowed the field of allowable hosts..

    pretty much limiting it to SHARE in the non-church related category.

    The encampment proposal would have further limited where encampments could have been placed…

    I understand that most of the existing host sites for the existing tent cities would not qualify under the proposed encampment rules…

    and i believe that the encampment rules would have ruled out the tent cities whose legal charters expired last year anyway…

    I haven’t heard if/how those contracts were renewed.

    that is just my understanding.



    Excellent info, Jo!!!!


    Now I understand why the “two-year hosting experience” rule was such a bummer. Maybe later we can discuss why SHARE opposed the legislation as being “too restrictive.” That seems odd to me, especially in light of the fact that it would have favored SHARE over other non-church providers.


    Two things I liked about the proposed encampments legislation were (1) that it gave neighborhoods more input into the process and (2) that it would have discouraged rogue encampments, like NV.

    Two things I did NOT like about the legislation were (1) that it didn’t codify any living arrangements or rules for the camps, other than location, and (2) that it did not make any formal provision for social service providers at the camps.

    Without the first thing (consistent rules), there would be no long-term accountability from people running the camp. Without the second (social service providers), people who COULD move onward and upward will instead end up just marking time. Just like some folks do at NV.

    I like the idea of camps for people who don’t fit into the shelter system neatly. However, I don’t want people at camps to be just treading water, without getting any encouragement to make a change in their lives. I want them to have regular contact with someone from the City, someone who is saying: “We can hook you up with some help . . .”




    I don’t know if SHARE officially opposed the legislation.

    The homeless community opposed it because the siting rules would have made it nearly impossible to find a legal site withing the city limits to host an encampment..

    and made it incredibly difficult to find a host.

    that said.. there are religious or quasi religious organizations in town who qualify for the new regulations and who understand the need for the inclusion of social services to transition homeless people from the streets to housing who would do a great job managing encampments…

    if they could find a site…

    “Two things I liked about the proposed encampments legislation were (1) that it gave neighborhoods more input into the process and (2) that it would have discouraged rogue encampments, like NV.”

    illegal encampments are illegal…

    other than insisting they get bulldozed to the ground or vigilante tactics, there is little any neighborhood can do to make sure that illegal encampments don’t occur…

    and the neighborhood vetting process would pretty much guarantee that the few legal spots for an encampment didn’t’ become one.

    the biggest setback to the Sunny Jim site wasn’t the soil contamination.. it was the neighbors..

    and that was in the middle of an industrial park.

    the Mayor’s encampment proposal looked pretty progressive until you looked under the covers at the reality and realized that it would effectively prevent encampments of any kind within the city limits..



    You make excellent points here, Jo. I’m learning as we go.

    there is little any neighborhood can do to make sure that illegal encampments don’t occur…

    –Can’t agree with you there. Neighbors can do quite a bit to block or remove encampments, actually. SHARE knows this, and that’s why they picked the most neglected, out-of-the-way place they could find to locate Nickelsville.

    Neglected property or not, though, if you simply ignore the rules and put up a shack on someone else’s property and insist on your right to stay there indefinitely, then you lose the moral high ground. And once you’ve lost that, anything goes.

    The Occupy movement thought they could get away with squatting on City property indefinitely, but they learned soon enough that they were wrong. And NV will get the same hard lesson, unless they have a change of attitude, and that soon.

    Consider the “NV must go” thread that was started by Messr. Velo Nut last week . . . This guy was essentially saying that, whereas he once welcomed NV, he now saw the place as a nuisance. Other folks chimed in and supported him, and there are many others, both on and off the Blog, who feel the same way but haven’t spoken up as yet. Trust me on this: It’s time for SHARE to show more flexibility. If they don’t, they could lose big.

    If neighbors are opposed to a particular site proposal for selfish reasons, that may call for some leadership on the part of “homeless advocates” (whatever that means) and on the part of politicians. But, absent that support, SHARE cannot simply ignore the rules and set up a tent camp wherever they want.

    There’s a process in place. If you don’t like the process, you can always try to change it. But in the meantime, you need to respect it.

    Or take the consequences.



    Photo by Kevin McClintic



    So what will happen with all the “shelters” that have been built,(since it seems they will not be able to be moved very easily) trash, ect who pays for that to be disposed of?

    If people do decide to go into a shelter and have pets what will happen with the pets.

    Finally OMG please tell me there is back up plan for the goats.

    Sorry I just had to ask




    the shelters were built so they could be flattened and moved to wherever the camp goes. I think that’s already been covered earlier in this thread.

    Interesting that you are concerned about a back up plan for the animals, but not for the humans there. IMO, no one really seems to care very much, just shut the place down.

    The goats were supposedly brought in by the woman who supposedly runs the place with Mr. Morrow. She has a home away from NV. I would guess/hope that she would provide for the goats. And I am only guessing, but there are quite a few volunteers who have helped out a lot with NV. Perhaps they will come up with something for the cats and dogs there. The residents won’t be kicked out overnight, so perhaps there will be time to figure all that out. Now, if someone could only come up with a real solution for the humans there. I fully expect some of them to just scatter and end up back on the streets. That’s sad…there are more homeless people out there on the streets than ever before. And they are dying on the streets, too:



    Yep Jan I DO care more about the animals in this issue. As DP has stated several times (even his own experience) many do not want to leave or don’t follow the rules. Again it the humans choice to do what it necessary to do what they need to do. I have helped 2 people get back on their feet, they busted their asses and they found housing(one was able to keep her cats) the other one is working with me and her next goal is school. They TRIED.

    The animals have NO choice so yes I am concerned. I read your stories about the deaths yes very sad.

    So again back to the money issue and the city actually doing something, so far, it does not seem that way. Sadly I actually do not see any thing any time soon about it be solved.

    Going on the defensive here, back off on telling me I do NOT care and you know that. That was unfair. People in past posts have also been concerned about the goats and what will happen when the camp is shut down.




    i wish people would get rid of the prevailing idea that some humans deserve to live more than others..



    @HH, Furry Faces is working on a backup plan for the animals–in case temporary fostering and/or re-homing is needed. This includes the goats.



    >>i wish people would get rid of the prevailing idea that some humans deserve to live more than others..

    Jo, has anyone here said anything like that? I don’t think so.

    Let’s get someting out on the table: Nickelsville is a complex and ethically difficult problem. The best minds in the City can’t seem to lick this one, so is it any surprise that we should be having some trouble with it here on the Blog?

    Still, we’ve got to come to terms with this thing, and we’ve got to keep the discussion open for all.

    I’ll vouch for your experience with Nickelsville. I’ll vouch for the fact that you care a lot about people. But just because you care about people, it doesn’t make you some kind of homelessness policy expert. And, conversely, just because someone has a different opinion than yours, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care.

    I think that’s what was eating at JimmyG. He felt that we were being high-handed, but he didn’t know how to vocalize that, so along with his criticisms of us, he blurted out something that made him sound foolish.

    I actually hope JimmyG comes back here. I hope Velo Nut gets back into the game, too. And other folks as well. We need to get everyone’s input on this.

    For the nonce, Jo, I will assume that both Jimmy and Velo are caring people, who are acting in good faith. Just like you and me.



    furryfaces, you have done wonderful things at Nickelsville and your karma is at all-time high. However, the experience with pets there highlights some of the difficulties inherent in an unregulated encampment.

    My observation is that long-term homeless people take very good care of their pets. However, compliance with S/N at Nickelsville was very spotty, as you know. Not that there’s any legal requirement for a pet owner to spay/neuter, mind you . . . even for homeless folks. Still, if there’s anyone who SHOULD get their pet fixed, it’s a homeless person.

    As you well know, many people at NV (especially the short-timers) were resistant to that. Litters of kittens and puppies were born there that shouldn’t have been, and sometimes this was with the full knowledge (encouragement even) of the “pet coordinators.”

    I think you tried your best to maintain an ongoing connection with one or more of the pet coordinators there, starting with Mike, but obviously that presented some challenges. In the first place, pet coordinators are voted into their position. Thus, someone can become pet coordinator based on personal popularity, availability, or some other criteria, rather than any particular expertise they have with animals.

    In the second place, there’s no guarantee that any one coordinator will be at camp for an extended period of time – the idea is for people to get OUT of camp, after all – therefore, you could be working with one person one week and a different person the next. That makes it hard to establish an ongoing system of expectations and accountability, and I believe you had some difficulty with that.

    Finally, there’s the “born free” attitude prevailing at camp, an attitude that makes it difficult for anyone – and especially someone on the outside – to foster a culture of responsibility for pets. You saw this with the large-breed dog guys who didn’t want to get their dogs neutered, because they saw that as a curb on their own free-roaming, male virility. (Translation: You touch my dog’s junk, you’re touching mine.) You also saw this with the case of a woman who bred her chihuahua (?) as part of some naive plan to use the puppies as an income source. That attitude violates every precept of common sense, and yet there was nothing to be done about it. Many people end up in places like NV precisely because they don’t WANT to be told what to do by others.

    So whatcha gonna do? We can’t force people to make good decisions, either for their pets or themselves. Nor should we try. What we can do, though, is create an environment in which people are encouraged to make good decisions and discouraged from making bad ones.

    NV, as it currently exists, is not that environment.

    NV, with more City oversight, could be that environment.




    i didn’t say i was some kind of homelessness expert

    though i will admit i have taken a hands on crash course since Nickelsville plunked itself at the bottom of the hill..

    but i have to point out the hypocrisy of saying things like “some of these people don’t want to help themselves” and “some of these people brought this on themselves” and still maintaining that you don’t think some people deserve more than others.

    I will guarantee you that knowing the circumstances that led any single person to Nickelsville will challenge the judgement made about whether or not they want to help themselves or whether or not they brought the circumstances that led there on themselves.

    The residents of Nickeslville are just people.. very similar to the people who live on your street except for one small thing..

    they don’t have houses and they don’t have adequate support systems

    and the public sector system that is supposed to offer that support system makes it as difficult as possible for homeless people to take advantage of that safety net.

    now you can go ahead and blame THEM if you want to… because God knows there has to be a THEM or you could find yourself living there tomorrow.

    but the truth is that but for the grace of friends and family.. in the right circumstances, any one of us could find ourselves living on the streets.

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