- Kelly O
- "This is probably not the answer to homelessness. But it's the best we've got right now," Jolly, a Nickelsville resident, said last year.
Fifty-four-year-old Richard Dilbert has lived at Nickelsville since the camp's creation in 2008 and he's been involved in every one of Nickelsville's relocations since then. Are the Nickelodeons, as the tent camp's residents call themselves, excited about the move or tired of having to relocate yet again?
"Right now, just kind of weary," he says. "Nickelsville has been trying to work with the city to try to get some land for a more permanent site. I know they got it, and we know they got it, but they’re just not opening up that opportunity."
In June, the Committee to End Homelessness in King County recommended "increasing support and public education" for what it calls Interim Survival Mechanisms, "including encampments and car camping that create pathways to housing." Now, Nickelsville residents are hoping the committee will act on and implement those recommendations.
Last year, the Seattle City Council rejected legislation that would have legalized and regulated tent camps in a 5-4 vote.
Representatives of Nickelsville told me they recently met with Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim to talk about the impending move. They said she was supportive.
The new location's address is 1001 S. Dearborn St, across from the northbound onramp for I-5. Dilbert said it's on a slight incline, which, if you've ever gone camping, you know is far from ideal. According to the Low Income Housing Institute, which is facilitating the move, the site will hold 40 people. Coho Real Estate has offered the land for six months, with the possibility of an additional six-month extension.
Between the two current sites on Jackson and Union, Nickelsville is currently home to about 50 people. They expect that some residents will peel off and find new places to shelter.
“Seattle Goodwill welcomes Nickelsville to our Dearborn Neighborhood," says Catherine McConnell, Seattle Goodwill's Vice-President, in a statement. In a previous location where Goodwill offered support, she says, the camp was a "well-organized community with requirements that included a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol; they were self-managed, providing their own security and cleaning." Pastor Stephen Olsen of The Lutheran Church of The Good Shepherd is sponsoring the camp's move.
The last official One Night Count of homeless people in the city, conducted in 2014, showed that more than 3,100 people were sleeping in the streets of Seattle and King County. Roughly 6,000 more people stay in shelters and transitional housing, according to LIHI. According to a recent federal report, the Seattle/King County area has the third largest homeless population in the country, after New York City and Los Angeles.
"When all the emergency shelters are full, and there is not enough low-income housing, Nickelsville offers families and individuals a sense of community and a safe place to live," the camp says in a joint statement with LIHI. "Too many people have died (26 women and men since January of 2014) from violence and exposure from living on the streets of Seattle."
"It would be great if Mayor Murray could include capital funding in the City of Seattle budget to address the needs of homeless families in Seattle," Lee, LIHI's director, told me. "He is now co-chair of the Committee to End Homelessness. If the city of Seattle can set aside 1 percent for the arts then it can surely set aside 1 percent of the city's $1 billion budget, or $10 million, for low-income housing."