UPDATE 2: City Council wants Nickelsville homeless camp out by Sept. 1; Nickelsville responds

Council proposes shifting tenants to emergency and long-term housing

Update for June 12
Nickelsville responds to plan

During the public comment period of a Seattle City Council Housing, Human Services and Health and Culture Committee meeting on June 12, Diane Fillmore, Nickelsville resident for two years, said she was disappointed that multiple media outlets arrived at their camp on Monday to ask for Nickelsville's reaction to a letter they had not seen.

“Finally we saw what the seven of you had signed (the letter is available for download at the top of the story), and it was a shocking thing to see this letter from city leaders that pretty much talked about us like dogs in a kennel.”

Fillmore then read a response to the letter from Nickelsville leadership, which included the following passages:

“Humans have the right to stay together and safe. In Seattle, the majority of city council(members) have chosen to ignore and disrespect that basic right … Many times at Nickelsville we have seen families show up in the middle of the night with young children, tired and exhausted after having suffered through social services all day to have nothing change. We were glad and honored to have them stay with us until something is found ...

"If you had been willing to work with us we would have been able to move by now (away from the Highland Park location). What we have needed for the past two years is recognition and acceptance that would have brought running water, electricity and police support to our community.

"Please understand that Nickelsville is sticking together, we will as long as we have a place to go and respect from the community would also help.”

Other Nickelsville residents said they were concerned the Sept. 1 move-out date will fracture their community (well over 100 people at this time) into small groups as they are sent to temporary or long-term housing, while others doubted whether there will be enough housing for everyone. Without sufficient long-term housing, some said, people will eventually be sleeping outdoors again, only without the support of a community that strives for order and safety.

Update for 5 p.m., June 10
Mayor Mike McGinn has issued a statement in response to the city council letter (detailed in the original post) asking that the Nickelsville encampment be vacated by Sept. 1:

"I appreciate the work of Councilmembers Licata and O'Brien for working on expanding legal options for encampments, which built upon the work of an advisory task force I assembled in my first year in office. For some time we have delayed enforcement of the law against encampments on industrial lands while the City Council examined these proposals to provide more opportunities for legal encampments in the City of Seattle. In light of the City Council's clear statement of intent that they will not expand encampments further, and that they expect Nickelsville to clear the property by September 1, motivated in part by the desire to sell this property to Food Lifeline, I have no further basis to not enforce the law.

"We will provide additional services, including extended winter shelter hours through the summer. Absent a change in direction by the City Council, by September 1 we expect the property to be vacated and we will follow the City Council's direction to evict those who remain."

Original post on June 10
A majority of Seattle’s City Council signed a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn on June 10 letting him know they disagree with his two proposed solutions for the homeless camp on W. Marginal Way S.W. in Highland Park, and want to see tenants moved out of the camp by Sept. 1 and into emergency or long-term housing.

Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata abstained from signing the letter.

In May, McGinn sent a letter to the council proposing two solutions for the camp that has been fraught with safety and health concerns and pressure from neighbors who want Nickelsville gone. First, he proposed moving forward legislation from Licata that would “permit transitional encampments that meet certain criteria for up to a year at non-church owned sites …”, essentially finding a new encampment location for Nickelsville so non-profit food distributor Food Lifeline could purchase the camp’s current city-owned land at 7116 W. Marginal Way S.W. Another option (although never seemingly preferred by anyone in city government, including the mayor) was to keep Nickelsville where it is on a “semi-permanent” basis as long as safety and health concerns were properly addressed.

In their letter to McGinn, seven councilmembers (Clark, Bagshaw, Burgess, Conlin, Godden, Harrell and Rasmussen) stated the Mayor’s options “would not be effective solutions,” instead recommending McGinn “direct the Human Services Department to prepare a plan that would provide immediate targeted outreach and engagement services to the Nickelsville residents along with immediate provisions of shelter, housing and other services.

The letter continues:

“Because we believe a public health and safety emergency exists, we ask this plan be developed and implemented – and Nickelsville be closed – by September 1, 2013. We recognize added resources may be required and, to that end, we will introduce legislation to authorize funding for this purpose.”

The letter states the plan outlined above falls in line with Seattle and King County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, and states the city currently spends $30 million a year “in programs and services to assist homeless individuals and families.”

“The immediate outreach we are endorsing provides the greatest opportunity to assist Nickelsville residents in ending their homelessness and address reasonable concerns raised by neighbors,” councilmembers summarized.

The council letter can be read in its entirety as a PDF download found up top.

We have reached out to Nickesville leadership for a response to the council plan, and will update when we hear back.

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