Nickelsville, a nomadic homeless encampment with a history of conflict with city hall (see: name of last mayor), may soon stake its tents permanently.
Mayor Mike McGinn's office has been quietly looking for a permanent location for Nickelsville since meeting with the group's representatives in April, according to several sources. The mayor's office declined to comment on the proceedings, but a Nickelsville spokesman named Alternate (pronounced alter-nate) says, "We have been working with the mayor's office to find a permanent site." Meanwhile, Nickelsville liaison Peggy Hotes confirms the location: "The site they've been looking at is near Georgetown," but she declined to give the site's exact whereabouts. "It's long and narrow and has a few empty buildings attached to it." Hotes added that the mayor's office pledged to help find Nickelsville a permanent location "before bad weather set in."
Some background: Designed to support 100 homeless people, Nickelsville must move from its current location at South 129th Street and Martin Luther King Way South this Thursday because its time in the space is up. Nickelodeons, as they call themselves, had been preparing to move to an undisclosed location (of their own findings) to set up permanently, but after personal assurances from the mayor that a permanent location is being scouted, the camp has decided to move to another temporary site—most likely at a church, says Hotes—while they wait for the mayor to help. This will buy them another 90 days before they are forced to move again.
Meanwhile, when contacted, the mayor's office backed off find a permanent location for Nickelsville today, instead outlining plans to form an "external citizen review panel" to assess the needs of Seattle's homeless populations (including allowing "an encampment to be established on a piece of city property for some determined period of time.") Basically, the mayor's office is punting what could be an unpopular decision to a panel of citizens. Because regardless of where Nickelville goes, this could be an incendiary issue if there's no warning—no neighborhood wants to hear that 100 homeless people will be dumped in their midst without having a chance to talk—or argue—about the ramifications of the influx.
"We think this is a good step in strengthening the policy addressing Seattle's homeless population," says mayor's office spokesman Aaron Pickus, referring to the review panel.
The citizen panel will also be charged with giving input on developing Single Room Occupancy housing (SRO) within the city, an "assessment center" that would offer case management for homeless individuals, as well as bathrooms, shelter, and storage units.