A big story in the Seattle news recently has been the most recent move of Nickelsville, a tent city for homeless men and women. Sponsored and managed by Share/WHEEL (co-sponsors also of Women in Black), Nickelsville is named after Mayor Nickels, who claims to do great things for the homeless people of Seattle, but has in all actuality, failed them time and time again.
Mayor Nickels may say that there are enough beds to cover every homeless person, but how do you explain the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who still sleep out on the streets every night? Do you really think that is their choice? I sat with a mother today, and her five year old daughter, and we called every single shelter in King County, and two in other counties. Not a single opening. No one had room for this mother and child. Does this outrage anyone else? *end rant*
The fact of the matter is that no, there are not enough beds to even begin to cover the thousands of homeless in King County alone. Out of this desperation, Tent City 3 was started in 2002. Modeled after Portland’s “Dignity Village,” and named after the manner of naming shanty towns Hooverville during the Great Depression, Nickelsville has faithfully provided anywhere from 50-100 homeless men and women a night safe shelter for 7 years. Nickelsville, and its sister camp, Tent City 4, are housed mostly in church parking lots, occasionally taking residence on university campus. The entire camp has to move every 90 days, to follow city ordinance, leaving Nickelsville to find a new willing host.
Nickelsville is more than just a tent city, it is home for hundreds. It is a place where men and women can safely rest their head each night. With shelters, if you don’t get in line in time, you lose your bed. There is no guarantee with shelters. In Nickelsville, the tent you sleep in is yours, every single night. It is a place where they can leave their belongings during the day while they are out working, looking for work, attending doctor appointments, visiting with family, etc. It is a place where husband and wives can stay together, something no other shelter in Seattle offers!
Nickelsville has turned into a community full of people who equally encourage and hold one another accountable. There is round-the-clock security, community meetings and strict rules, all set by the community. Drugs and alcohol are strictly forbidden. Quite simply, these are men and women who desperately need a safe place to sleep each night, and a community to gather around them. These are women and men who are empowered by simply having a tent to call “home.”
And yet, the City of Seattle has continuously tried to evict Nickelsville from nearly every location it has landed over the last 7 years. They are give 90 day permits, after which they must pack up and leave, trying to find new safe ground. Churches have put themselves in the line of fire, trying offer Nickelsville a place to stay. These church have, in turn, been sued by the city.
Finally, Nickelsville grew weary of fighting the city, and has sought refuge from the State. They are now residing on State owned property, in hopes that Governor Gregorie will have a more open heart and mind than Mayor Nickels. The land Nickelsville currently sits on has been abandoned for quite some time, and it seems a waste to let perfectly good land to unused, particularly when there are people in need of a place to go.
We are currently advocating to the State and to Governor Gregorie to give Nickelsville a permanent place to call home. It is rumored that she has been to visit Nickelsville this week. We are only hoping that she can see how much good this tent city does for these men and women. Until we can eradicate homelessness, there will be a real need for Nickelsville!
If you are interested in joining the campaign, please send an email or a letter to the following. They are listening! Now is the time to speak up!
Mr. McKenna, Attorny General: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Hammond, State Transportation Secretary: email@example.com
Mr. Judd, Governor’s Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Christine Gregorie (via her website): www.governor.wa.gov