City Council approves $500,000 to transition Nickelsville residents from glass yard property

In the ongoing saga of what will happen with the Nickelsville homeless encampment and it’s residents, Seattle’s City Council voted unanimously in favor of a bill on June 24 that will provide $500,000 to a non-profit for the work of providing “outreach, engagement, case management, shelter, housing and other services to immediately move the campers at the encampment at 7116 W. Marginal Way S.W.”

The Nickelsville Central Committee is not keen on their solution.

Nickelsville, which has been in West Seattle’s Highland Park neighborhood since 2011, has a fluctuating population around 120 people, meaning around $4,000 for each individual from that half million. The issue of moving the camp along has come to the forefront in recent months, with Highland Park residents complaining of public safety issues while Nickelsville tenants complain about lack of police support in dealing with trouble tenants and public health concerns, including rat infestation and periodic flooding.

According to the passed bill, the city’s Human Services Department will choose a non-profit agency to take on the work of dismantling Nickelsville and putting residents in touch with services. A clear timeline wasn’t provided, but in a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn earlier in the month the council asked for a move out date of Sept. 1 (to which he agreed). The bill reiterated that deadline for having everyone out.

“There have been a lot of councilmembers who have looked at this legislation, who have attempted to make sure what we are doing here will have maximum positive effect for the people at Nickelsville now, who we hope we can help find the next right step towards safe, long term housing,” Councilmember Sally Clark said before the vote.

Prior to council discussion of the bill, public comments were not made by Nickelsville residents but homeless advocates urged the city to pick a non-profit “that knows how to keep families together.” A concern of Nickelsville residents is that their community will be torn apart as they are sent to different parts of the city.

Highland Park residents asked that funding be found to also help those living in homeless camps along the greenbelt (near Nickelsville, but not on the property), and to repair areas around the greenbelt damaged by camps (by giving funding to West Seattle-based Nature Consortium). Clark said the council would discuss those items separately, as the $500,000 would only be used for those living in the main camp.

Nickelsville’s Central Committee responded negatively to the council plan. A statement from the camp read, in part, “The Council’s goal seems clear: Scatter Nickelsville, so they won’t have to deal with an organized community anymore.” They went on to say those who wish to stay together will work together to find a new home, while those interested in taking the city up on their path to housing are welcome to do so.

“We have found that relying on the Seattle City Council is the road to ruin,” the statement continued. “Nickelodeons need to do things for ourselves, with the help of real friends.

During the same week, a bill proposed by Councilmember Nick Licata that would alter the city’s approach to legal tent encampments was discussed at city hall. The bill would take residential areas out of consideration for camps, but open up more opportunity for year-long camps in industrial and commercial zones.

A council vote on those changes is expected soon.

The bill is available for viewing here: http://tinyurl.com/nbpgu2l

Here is a press release from council headquarters:

Seattle City Council authorizes funds to transition campers out of city-owned 'glass yard' property

SEATTLE - City Council unanimously adopted legislation today authorizing the Human Services Department to provide outreach, engagement, case management, shelter, housing and other services to transition campers out of the encampment at 7116 W Marginal Way SW.

Council Bill 117815 authorizes $500,000 in new General Fund dollars for services to camping residents of the City-owned property commonly known as "Nickelsville." Residents in the surrounding community have expressed ongoing concerns about environmental contamination at the site and the public safety impact of the encampment for campers and the surrounding neighborhood. Passage of this legislation underscores a majority of councilmembers' long-standing position that encampments are not an acceptable response to homelessness in Seattle and that providing housing, treatment services, and shelter are the most appropriate assistance to set homeless individuals on a pathway to ending homelessness.

The City invests more than $30 million annually in programs and services to assist homeless individuals and families. In the past two years, the Council has provided an additional $1 million in funding for shelter, rapid re-housing and other services to help move homeless individuals and families off the streets and into shelter and housing. In recent years Council has also affirmed the constitutional right of religious organizations to provide shelter, including encampments, with minimal requirements.

"Our goal is to provide safe, secure housing, to anyone at the West Marginal Way SW location who is willing to accept it," said Council President Sally J. Clark.
Seven Councilmembers signed a letter earlier this month requesting the Mayor to direct the Human Services Department to prepare a plan to provide immediate, targeted outreach and engagement services, case management and housing, shelter and services for Nickelsville residents and closure of the encampment by September 1. Several cities, including, New Orleans, Baltimore and San Francisco have also taken the approach of providing intensive outreach and engagement efforts, coupled with the provision of housing, shelter and services to residents of encampments. The cities have been successful moving individuals at the encampments into stable, safe shelters and supported housing.

"We recognize that the problem of homelessness is a regional, state and national problem. We can't end homelessness alone, but we can help the residents of Nickelsville today - and that's worth the investment," Clark added.

The Council's Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee (HHSHC) will host an evening hearing on Tuesday, June 25 regarding alternatives for encampments in the city. The next meeting of the HHSHC committee is scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, where the committee may take action on legislation broadening the ability of encampments to locate on public or private property in the city.

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