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A homeless encampment in the city of Seattle dubbed Nicklesville after former mayor Greg Nickels.

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Nickelsvill PicSEATTLE — The Seattle City Council wants Nickelsville shut down.

Seven council members signed a letter to Mayor McGinn that said one Seattle’s oldest homeless encampments should be closed by September 1.

In the letter, council members said they believe a public health and safety emergency exists in the Nickelsville encampment and they believe city time and resources would be better utilized with increased outreach, case management and proven programs that provide the best pathway to long-term or permanent housing for the people who live in Nickelsville.

“We’re going to help them find another place, but it would be in a shelter and permanent housing rather than another camp. We can’t keep moving tents and camps around the city thinking that’s going to solve the problem with the people who live there — it doesn’t. It’s only a very temporary measure and it doesn’t result in any permanent help for people who are living in the camps,” councilman Tom Rasmussen said.

Council members also want to spend h$500,000 from the city’s general fund to help with the transition. It would be a one-time funding for the effort.

Aside from these concerns, the city owns the land Nicklesville is situation on and it appears to be leaning toward leasing or selling the land to Food Lifeline, an organization that supports food banks, meal programs and shelters throughout western Washington.

Residents of the camp said they just need a good place to live like everyone else.

“I’d like to see my family be able to move to an environment where we can stay for at least up to two years, have electricity, have sewer, have water — all of those things that my family needs,” Nickelsville resident Teresa Sides said.

“We know there are health and safety concerns. There have been charges of criminal activity going on as well, and you know something has to be done to ensure that this doesn’t continue,” Rasmussen said.

There is no word yet on when a final decision will be made.

Local News

City council tells mayor to close Nickelsville

nickelsvilleSEATTLE — A majority of city council members sent a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn Monday requesting the city close the Nickelsville homeless encampment by Sept. 1, citing public health and safety concerns.

The letter was signed by seven members of the city council. Council members Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata didn’t sign.

Late last month, McGinn sent a letter to the council requesting the approval of either legislation that would permit long-term encampments like Nickelsville or the council take steps to better provide for the current site. The city responded to the mayor’s letter by stating it would continue on a predetermined path to invest in long-term, permanent housing solutions and transfer homeless out of tent encampments to housing.

Council members also stated the need to “address the concerns” of property owners near Nickelsville.

The council members’ letter denounced the “substandard living” provided by tent encampments, and advocated for a more permanent housing solution. The city advocated its joint agreement with King County to work on a ten year plan to end homelessness, saying improvements in shelters, low-income housing and car parking availability have occurred. Council members wanted to continue on long-term paths for “proven” solutions to homelessness, rather than offer temporary sites like Nickelsville.

“We believe that increased outreach, case management and investments in proven programs provide the best path to housing,” the letter stated.

Council members were prepared to invest resources in dismantling Nickelsville and finding new homes for the residents by Sept 1. The Seattle Times reported council members were ready to authorize up to $500,000 from the city’s general fund to pay for services.

SEATTLE — Seattle’s notorious homeless encampment, Nickelsville, just marked its second anniversary on West Marginal Way. But it’s not likely to make it to a third.

nickelsvilleThe city is on the verge of shutting Nickelsville down and adopting rules that would limit encampments to no more than one year in any location.

“That’s the scary part right now is not knowing where we’re going to go, and what we are going to do,” said Nickelsville resident Michael Montanari.

Montanari moved to Nickelsville recently after spending time sleeping under the West Seattle Bridge.

“Having community and people who are in the same situation, it really helps you,” Montanari said.  “We help each other lift up each other’s spirits.”

The city of Seattle has never officially sanctioned Nickelsville, even though it’s on public property.  Instead, leaders have pretty much looked the other way, despite problems with drugs and crime.

But city lawmakers are losing patience and want a solution that puts encampments in more appropriate places and makes sure they don’t become permanent.

Rules being considered would shut down Nickelsville, but would allow sanctioned tent cities on certain public and private land in non-residential areas.  Stay would be restricted to one year; no more than 100 campers; and a proven non-profit would have to serve as manager.

“They’re trying to solve the problem of encampments existing in this sort of illegal limbo and providing a way forward that allows that to exist as a viable alternative,” said Tim  Harris, founder of Real Change, who supports the rules.  “There are just not enough options with the churches that exist.”

Montanari admits that there have been issues at Nickelsville, but claims the self-managed community is now working well.

“They’ve gotten rid of all of the problems that they had,” he said.  “They do a really good job on barring people and taking care of that.”

But even homeless advocate Harris admits that it’s time to do something about unregulated homeless communities.

“Nickelsville has been more of a rogue encampment,” Harris said.  “A move might not be the worst thing that could happen to them. Those moves have a way of shaking out the bad elements and offering an opportunity to reorganize.”

The city is expected to come up with rules for tent cities sometime in the next few months.


SEATTLE — The week got off to a rough start for residents of the Nickelsville homeless camp in south Seattle as flood waters rose to more than 1 foot high.

Community members donated water pumps to provide some relief from Monday’s flood.

And on Thanksgiving, those living in the camp got more support from the Vietnamese Cultural Center, whose members came to serve warm seafood gumbo, give haircuts and provide free flu shots.

“It’s great. It’s a beautiful thing,” said camp resident Paul Irvin.

Irvin has been living in Nickelsville for a month after losing his job and then losing his home to foreclosure.

“I was in a hotel when money started running low. I slept in my car for a week. Then I needed to find someplace to get some roots so I came by here and they took me in,” said Irvin.

This is the second year the Vietnamese Cultural Center has held the event. Trinh Mac wanted to come after seeing the flood damage at the homeless camp on the news.

“There was water up to a gentleman’s knees. It looked pretty devastating and my heart goes out to them,” Mac said.

All day, donations of blankets and clothes poured in replacing what was lost in the storm.

“People need it. We all needed some attention. I believe when people come together and want to help people, there is hope,” Irvin said.

Besides the haircuts and flu shots, the volunteers also handed out sack lunches. Members of the community also stopped by to drop off boots, hot coffee and socks.