Nickelsville moves to U-District

Need Housing? courtesy of Wesa [flickr] via our group pool [#]

Nickelsville, the tent city made up of homeless people, moved once more over the weekend to a parking lot owned by University Christian Church in the U-District, where residents hope they’ll be able to remain until year’s end.

Inside the encampment, residents, advocates and organizers gather and scatter, taking care of various tasks. Each resident has to contribute to the running of the camp, doing chores or working a security detail, according to one resident, Kailli.

“All people need is a chance… it makes a difference feeling like you’re part of something,” explained Aaron Colyer, a resident and unofficial spokesman for Nickelsville residents. Colyer himself was busy sorting food donations, cooking, and stabilizing the pavilion being used as a kitchen by the residents as he spoke about the programs offered at Nickelsville. Every Monday night, the residents have a Bible study, and organizers are working on setting up an AA meeting specifically for Nickelsville residents.

Some social service programs have come on site to offer assistance, something Colyer says seems like a wise idea- he believes it would save the city time and money by not sending the homeless to services located in different areas of the city, but instead bringing the services to a large group of homeless. Nickelsville had only 42 residents earlier this month, and is now up to 65. Colyer believes they will hit 100 in their current location, and he would prefer it if they could set up a permanent encampment large enough for 1,000.

Currently over 2,600 people sleep on the streets every night, according to figures from the One Night Count. Those numbers are up 15 percent from last year, and are unlikely to get smaller given the current economic situation. Many shelters only allow men or women, and there are very few shelters that allow families to stay together. Even when those shelters are found, Colyer says, many families will only stay for a few nights, rather than dealing with Child Protective Services. Additionally, the hours some shelters keep disallow residents from getting night-shift jobs.

The camp can still use tents, wooden pallets to put the tents on top of to keep the rain from soaking underneath them, blankets, clothing- particularly men’s clothing, sleeping bags and food donations are always accepted. Colyer said Big Five, the sporting goods store in the U-District would give a discount to those purchasing items for Nickelsville, but that has not been made official yet, so potential buyers may want to verify that information.

Nickelsville was named as a jab at the mayor whose homeless policies have been protested by many of those involved with the homeless population. Despite their desire to stay at their current location until the end of the year, their location may violate the city’s most recent eviction notice, which disallowed setting up within city limits. Though the parking lot- formerly used as a rental lot to bring in income for the church, a sacrifice that Colyer says is ‘very honorable of them’- is private property, churches hosting camps like this are required to get permits from the city.

Whether this particular iteration of Nickelsville will be able to remain at its current location is certainly questionable, given the track record of eviction notices and arrests made by the city. Colyer isn’t sure, but he thinks the peaceful protest that Nickelsville has become is worth it.

“When your leaders fail you, it’s up to you to do things yourself, you know?” he says as he ties down the last leg of the kitchen pavilion.

Nickelsville Kitchen courtesy of Wesa [flickr] via our group pool [#]

3 Comments so far

  1. Beth (sea_beth2) on October 13th, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

    As a personal note, having once attended a church who tried to get a permit from the city simply to be a church in a space that was owned by their own denomination… getting a permit from the city is no easy task. Hope UCC has done their homework on the permitting process…

  2. wesa on October 13th, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

    It’s truly amazing how you managed to capture everything from our visit in this post. Official or not, these folks have really done a remarkable job of maintaining security and staying within the bounds of legality in many regards (having sex offenders "register" with the camp and having that info updated with the county for one example). I hope things work out for them.

  3. Beth (sea_beth2) on October 13th, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

    I definitely appreciated that part, too- they’re certainly not trashing the area as some might expect, and of course who knows what may happen, but the security they’ve got set up is great. I’m glad they’re taking that step with the sex offenders too- not just because it’s good for locals to know where the sex offenders are located, but also because many sex offenders *want* to stay as compliant with the police as possible, to avoid the repercussions that occur if they don’t keep their addresses updated, which I can certainly see being difficult if they don’t have an actual place of residence.

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