Slog Tipper Rob e-mailed to ask us about one of the three Nickelsville homeless encampments established after the larger camp was evicted by the city last fall. "I noticed this morning," writes Rob, "that the small encampment on 22nd and Cherry was abandoned, with lots of gear left behind and a rental truck on the lot." What's up?
What's clear is that they were evicted by their host site, Cherry Hill Baptist Church, after much of the group staying there voted to become a camp called Legion of Hope that operated outside of the structure of Nickelsville. Why this splintering from Nickelsville, though? Well, it depends on who you ask.
This piece from Central District News says the Legion of Hope campers "were hoping to live in a less restrictive environment" than the Nickelsville code of conduct, which prohibits alcohol, drugs, weapons, and abusive behavior.
But this KIRO 7 piece points to a more complicated division:
One of those evicted was James McDaniel. He said, "Yesterday the cops showed up in force, and we told them that we are peaceful and we are willing to go, we just wanted a realistic amount of time to get our stuff out."
McDaniel said his group was tired of Nickelsville's leadership. He also claims campers were being told to go to protests, marches, and city meetings they didn't agree with.
Nickelsville's Central Committee said the dissidents didn't want to follow the organization's rules, and that there were complaints about alcohol use.
So that's the short answer, Rob: They were evicted after trying to become their own camp, either because they didn't want to follow Nickelsville's rules anymore or because they were tired of other expectations from Nickelsville organizers, like participating in political activity.
What's the long answer?
Well, you can find a bit more on Nickelsville's public Facebook page, where they've posted multiple letters between Nickelsville, the Cherry Street campers, and the church that seem to show that this was an ongoing discussion over the last few weeks, culminating in a January 28 vote. After campers voted to become their own autonomous site, the Nickelsville Central Committee contacted the church who owns the site and alerted them that (a) Nickelsville would not be sponsoring the camp nor its utility use any longer and (b) they were exercising a term of their agreement with the church that allows either party to cancel the agreement for any reason with 24 hours notice.
The church then gave these remaining campers on the site notice that, because the original agreement was with Nickelsville and that agreement had been canceled, they were now expected leave. The 20 or so campers are now on their own, trying to find a new place to camp. In a letter from the Nickelsville Central Committee to the public dated February 5, they refute what they say are "rumors and stories" spread by Legion of Hope campers "that say Nickelsville Central Committee and Scott are cruel and mean and had mistreated them."
Shit is complicated, guys. I'm looking into it further. But there have long been rumors that Scott Morrow, who helps run Nickelsville, rules with an iron fist. Does that invalidate the usefulness and efficiency of organized encampments? No, it most certainly does not. But it shrouds everything that happens around Nickelsville in an extra layer of drama.
Suffice it to say, it's complicated and exhausting to be homeless, whether you live in an organized community or on your own. If the city was better at dealing with the problem, maybe this wouldn't be happening at all.