February 19, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 8

News

Nickelsville splits: Homeless campers form their own group

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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And then there were two.

A Nickelsville encampment located at Cherry Hill Baptist Church on 22nd Avenue and East Cherry Street has closed, and the more than 30 residents who lived there have scattered to various locations.

The location closed in early February after several residents clashed with Nickelsville organizers over required community service hours. A majority of the camp at the time voted on Jan. 28 to split with Nickelsville and form its own encampment, called Legion of Hope.

Legion of Hope is comprised of 12 people living in an undisclosed location.

The group has applied for nonprofit status to operate as a self-governed tent encampment similar to Nickelsville.

Legion of Hope residents say they split with Nickelsville because the organization’s rules are too strict. Nickelsville requires residents to take security shifts, participate in a central committee that governs the encampments and volunteer at protests and other community gatherings, such as the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. march and rally.

The former Nickelodeons said they instead used their time to help in the camp’s Central District neighborhood. Residents helped one nearby homeowner cut down a tree and cleaned the streets, said resident Evie Mason.

Nickelsville’s leadership, particularly behind-the-scenes organizer Scott Morrow, refused to accept that work as credit for community service hours, Mason said.

“That’s not right when people are helping the community,” Mason said.

Reached by phone, Morrow declined to comment for this story.

David Abercrombie, a resident of the Nickelsville encampment on Union Street, blamed the split on a handful of camp leaders who did not follow camp rules.

“They just put the wrong people in charge of their day-to-day operations,” he said.

In early February, Nickelsville residents collected items that belonged to the organization, including kitchen gear, a security booth and portable toilets that were located at Cherry Hill Baptist Church.

With the Cherry Hill location closed, there are now two Nickelsville encampments. Abercrombie said there are no immediate plans to reopen a third location.

Nickelsville was previously located in an industrial neighborhood between West Seattle and South Park.

The city of Seattle evicted the encampment from that location in September, and the camp split into three smaller encampments located around Seattle.

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