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Mayor presents two possible solutions for Nickelsville homeless camp

The residents of Nickelsville are awaiting word from the city on what will happen with their encampment, located in the Highland Park neighborhood of West Seattle.

The homeless camp moved onto city-owned public land in 2011 and their presence has not been well-received by some living near the 7116 W. Marginal Way S.W location. To that end, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC, a community group) asked Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to move the camp out by June of this year.

In a letter to Seattle City Council President Sally Clark, McGinn wrote of the situation: “Signs of fatique are obvious and growing. Highland Park residents have identified an increasing number of concerns. A neighboring landowner is preparing a lawsuit, citing decreased land value. Questions have been raised recently about Nickelsville’s ability to govern itself and protect the health and safety of its residents. The current encampment situation is not sustainable.”

With HPAC and the tenants of Nickelsville asking for clear direction from the city, and no religious organization stepping in to host a Nickelsville camp elsewhere (as they have done for other encampments), the Mayor’s letter lays out two potential paths.

First option (and according to McGinn’s staff his preferred resolution) is to facilitate Food Lifeline’s interest in purchasing the parcel of land where Nickelsville resides to build a new facility (Food Lifeline is a non-profit food distribution agency).

“I think that we all agree that Food Lifeline’s proposed development has many humanitarian and economic advantages to Seattle and our region,” McGinn wrote, “But support for the Food Lifeline project means we must also find a way to facilitate the removal of everyone living in the Nickelsville encampment.”

To find a new home, he said, “I believe we need to discuss the merits of providing additional location options beyond those sponsored by religious entities for a properly run interim temporary encampment. To that end, I support Councilmember Licata’s proposed legislation to permit transitional encampments that meet certain criteria for up to a year at non-church owned sites …”

In addition to finding a new site, McGinn wrote “I will also transmit a supplemental budget request to Council to provide additional housing options and services” for Nickelsville residents and other members of the homeless population.

The second option is to “retain the West Marginal Way property to provide space for a properly run encampment to remain on a semi-permanent basis. If we follow this course we will need to first identify problems with drainage and pests. We will also need to provide access to running water and other basic amenities, and establish a relationship with a non-profit provider who can facilitate services on the site.”

McGinn wrote that the first step in the second option is to “conduct an environmental assessment of the property … Accordingly, I am offering an alternative piece of legislation that would provide funding for this initial environmental assessment.”

The City Council will ultimately need to vote on a preferred option.

“I look forward to an open dialogue with you about how to serve a local homeless population that is larger than our shelter system can accommodate and thus includes people who have few options but to continue to sleep outside,” McGinn wrote.

To read more about the Nickelsville Camp, please see our prior coverage here and here.

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