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The Nickelsville homeless encampment has been located at 7116 W. Marginal Way S.W. in Highland Park for two years. A community group is asking Seattle's Mayor McGinn to set a move out date for the camp.

As Nickelsville claims stability, HPAC asks Mayor for move out date

The future of the Nickelsville homeless encampment in the Highland Park area of West Seattle continues to hang in limbo, with tenants of the camp claiming productive meetings with Seattle police and the removal of trouble tenants while a neighborhood group asks the Mayor to move the camp out of the area by June 13.

First, the Nickelsville Central Committee (NCC) sent out an update at the end of March claiming, “Without police support it wasn’t easy, but the meth dealer and co. are gone for good from Nickelsville.”

Our report from last week highlighted the reason police are unable to help Nickelsville, located at 7116 W. Marginal Way S.W., due to the fact that it is an unofficial homeless encampment located on public city land. “This is public property … (and) there is no legal ability for anyone staying there … nor my officers … to evict somebody from public property,” Seattle Police Southwest Precinct Captain Joe Kessler said after the NCC claimed they were not getting support from SPD.

NCC said they had a productive meeting with Southwest Precinct leadership in the aftermath of that dispute, including recommendations from police to call 911 “every time someone barges in and steals some of our food, or a 5 gallon container of water, or another donation to the camp.” NCC said police also recommended Nickelsville set up a “Quartermaster” system to issue camp supplies in a more orderly fashion.

“Our challenges this week have encouraged the small number of neighbors who never wanted us here to push City Hall to bulldoze us,” the NCC update continued. “Please remember that we are eager to move to a better site, and want there to be a win win solution for Food Lifeline, the neighborhood, and us.”

Meanwhile, on April 2, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to request a move-out date for Nickelsville.

In part, that letter stated, “The City’s blind eye/hands off approach (to Nickelsville) has not worked for the residents of the encampment, or for the neighborhood. If the City were running the encampement or had any official presence there, they could help get people the services they need.”

HPAC went on to claim campers barred from Nickelsville for bad behavior “are now living in our backyard woods,” along with voicing concern over security and public health.

“The City has disrespected and taken advantage of our neighborhood for long enough by keeping (the camp) here for 2 years now … The City has set a dangerous precedent of condoning permanent encampments, without due process from neighbors or community members, to be set up overnight in any neighborhood of Seattle,” HPAC wrote.

The letter went on to specifically request a move-out date no later than June 13, one month notice being given to Nickelsville residents “and that every measure possible be taken to ensure that each person at the encampment is offered shelter or housing,” and a commitment from police to regularly patrol Highland Park greenbelt paths where homeless camps have sprung up.

The letter finishes with a warning that if a move out date is not declared by the Mayor by May 13 (the second year anniversary of Nickelsville in Highland Park), “we will be forced to take action which will include more media, a lot of emails and visits to your offices from our community, and legal action.”

In a final wrinkle to the story, hunger relief organization Food Lifeline is reportedly interested in purchasing the land where Nickelsville currently sits for a new building, although the organization has said they want to ensure the tenants of Nickelsville have a new home ready before moving forward with the purchase.

The NCC responded to HPAC and Food Lifeline’s plans with the statement, “Nickelsville wants to move by June 13, 2013. We want Food Lifeline’s dream for the land we are on to come true. Food and Shelter are equally important.”

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