Despite outreach workers and looming eviction, people living at Nickelsville has increased
Outreach workers from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM)found between 100 and 120 people living at Nickelsville when they first headed into the embattled homeless camp on July 3.
In the eight weeks since then, they have placed 37 people into transitional housing apartments in Burien or domestic violence shelter or addiction recovery programs, and bought bus tickets for another five to return to their home communities, sometimes as far away as Texas.
And yet, residents of Nickelsville say the camp’s population is now larger than before the outreach began. These days, there are more than 150 people staying at the encampment between West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way in West Seattle, said Peggy Hotes, a liaison between Nickelsville and its sponsoring organization, Jam for Justice.
The numbers at Nickelsville are supposed to be shrinking. The city invested $500,000 to help Nickelodeons find housing before the encampment is evicted on Sept. 1. UGM found housing for several families, but as they moved out, others have moved in.
“The numbers out today in Nickelsville are just as high, if not higher, than when we came in on July 3,” UGM Shelter Director Terry Pallas said, adding that it wasn’t UGM’s job to prevent people from entering Nickelsville after July 3.
“If [homeless people] are able to get a tent and a community, that’s better than being out in the open,” he said.
Still, Pallas said UGM has been effective. Outreach workers found housing for approximately one person for each day they worked at Nickelsville.
“If we’ve had this kind of success, think of what $5 million would do,” Pallas said.
City councilmembers are on legislative recess until September and could not be reached for comment.
David Takami, spokesperson for the Human Services Department, said it’s too soon to tell if UGM’s work was successful. He was encouraged, however, by the work UGM has done so far.
“I think that’s progress, but it’s complicated by these other factors,” he said, referring to the new residents arriving at Nickelsville.
The mayor’s office is in charge of clearing the encampment, and Mayor Mike McGinn’s spokesperson, Aaron Pickus, said they are looking for alternative sites for Nickelsville.
Nickelsville residents and their supporters say the half a million dollars allocated won’t clear out Nickelsville because there’s not enough housing and shelter for the more than 2,000 people who sleep on the streets in King County.
“If there was, there wouldn’t be a need for Nickelsville,” Hotes said.
The city contract required UGM to find housing for a minimum of 10 people. The outreach workers have exceeded that and expect to house between 50 and 75 people by Sept. 1.
They’re tasked with helping people with a range of background and needs. Hotes said some Nickelodeons were barred from the housing offered by UGM because of criminal records. That’s why a number of families who applied for housing are still at Nickelsville, she said.
The outreach workers faced resistance from many campers. Some Nickelodeons are suspicious of UGM’s religious underpinnings and have protested the Seattle City Council’s efforts to close the encampment. Some Nickelsville residents say they don’t want help at all.
That group of residents, at least, will persist, Hotes said. The Low Income Housing Institute is looking for a number of sites to house residents elsewhere in the city in partnership with area churches.
If those sites aren’t set by Sept. 1, Nickelodeons will “stand our ground,” Hotes said, and stay on the property. “We’ve done that a couple of times before, and we’ll do it again.”
CommentsEven though I have just been accepted for housing, my partner was not, so I will be rooming with another female camper who's partner was also denied. We are both starting back to school this fall and being in a stable environment will help with the already stressful school days ahead, however, living separately from our partners while they remain with the camp, is already putting strain on our personal relationships. And that is what I love about the camp because Nickelsville is all about keeping families, children and pets together. Also pushing religious views within the program is Invasive and random drug testing (other than if it is warranted) is unfounded as we are not on probation for jail here, and the no guests after 10pm and our partners cant even spend a night over, is just silly. We are not children here UGM, we NEED your HELP, NOT YOUR POLITICS" we need your "HAND UP" not a "HAND OUT" and I am sure that many will be addressing this in the near future. It's almost setting some up for failure and what then? Back on the streets again? Again , unless these rules are warranted by an incident or behavior, they should not have the right to infringe on our personal lives. Thanks Penny Lane Pannek Seattle, Wa. (Nickelsville)
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