Nickelsville is gone. In its place, more Nickelsvilles
Nickelsville vacated a patch of city-owned land on West Marginal Way Sept. 1, the deadline the Seattle City Council gave the camp’s 125 residents.
But like the mythical Hydra, several more Nickelsvilles grew up to take its place.
Three Nickelsville campsites — two in the Central District and one in Skyway — are now home to some 90 people. Churches are managing the camps, making them legal under a city ordinance enacted in 2011.
That’s barely a net decrease in the number of Nickelodeons, but city leaders, Nickelsville’s former neighbors, and even a spokesperson for the camp say the eviction and outreach are a success.
Outreach workers from Union Gospel Mission (UGM) moved 49 people into transitional housing and eight into domestic violence or addiction recovery programs. They bought bus tickets for another eight who left town. The effort was funded by $500,000 allocated by the Seattle City Council. (As of press time, Seattle’s Human Services Department said UGM has billed the city $11,993 for services).
“It resolved a very small, micro problem,” Councilmember Sally Clark said. At least Nickelsville is off the city-owned property on West Marginal Way that it had occupied for two years, she said.
“By no means does it solve the problem of helping people on a night-to-night basis,” Clark added.
In June, the Seattle City Council called for the encampment to shut down following complaints from residents of neighboring Highland Park and Delridge, a $1.65 million lawsuit alleging that the encampment has decreased the value of nearby property.
A Highland Park resident says the eviction has helped.
“Yes, there are still a lot of former residents camping in the greenbelt,” Carolyn Stauffer, president of the Highland Park Action Committee, wrote in an email. “But it seems like with time, and without Nickelsville across the street, these campers will eventually relocate as well.”
UGM, which conducted the placement for the city, is circumspect about its success. As the mission staff members placed Nickelsville residents, more people streamed into the doomed encampment, making it hard for outreach workers to keep up.
“We didn’t really know who was there on the ground,” said UGM’s Terry Pallas. “We were never given a roster.”
Nickelsville leadership is chalking up the eviction and resettlement as a win, since the three new Nickelsville sites can accommodate more people than in West Seattle.
“This is part of the growth plan,” Peggy Hotes, a liaison for the encampments’ sponsor organization, Jam for Justice, said of the move.
Nickelsville moved 25 people and the wooden structures in which they lived to 2020 S. Jackson St.; 25 others, some belonging to families, moved to 1419 22nd Ave.; the remaining 40 people moved to 12914 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.
“Against all of those odds, these poor people have triumphed in keeping Nickelsville together,” Hotes said.
In fact, Nickelodeons didn’t stay together. The camp’s splintering also caused some attrition. About 15 people were barred from the camp because they broke rules, missed a deadline to have their bags packed or did not pitch in on moving day.
Twenty other people headed out on their own, to apartments in White Center or to live in greenbelts.
Nickelsville’s central committee decided Sept. 6 that people who broke rules could appeal to return. They also decided that those who did not help with the move could return if they made up for it by doing twice the work during their first week back at the camp.
Some decided to opt-out of Nickelsville altogether.
Stephan, a former Nickelodeon who declined to give his last name, chose to live in a greenbelt on Beacon Hill with 10 other former Nickelodeons.
He’s had enough of Nickelsville’s rules, he said: “I’m probably stuck in the woods for a while.”
CommentsA few years ago, I was permitted to interview residents of Nickelsville. That show still plays and is also now on youtube. I would like to interview someone again for an update. Can someone help me set this up? Brenda Asterino "in fact, Nickelodians didn't stay together." "like the hydra, several more nicklesvilles grew up in it's place. Wow! Reporting is supposed to be about facts. Isn't it? Your poorly written article is bleeding bias all over the page. Nickelsville DID stay together. Nickelodians ALWAYS stay together. We always lose a few campers during a move. But although this move was particularly tough, we lost about the same amount as a simpler relocation. I LOVE move-day myself. It allows us the chance to be rid of many things that we neither want nor need. Such as non-nickleodians.
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