By James Tabafunda
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
With the fast-paced turn of events surrounding Nickelsville’s September 1 move to the International District – the 23rd in its history – supporters and residents of the tent city took time to meet with both concerned as well as supportive community members.
About 10 Nickelsville residents took turns sharing their personal experiences at the encampment, one specifically created for individuals and families of all ethnicities in Seattle without stable and permanent housing. They spoke to an audience of about 50 people at an August 26 informational meeting – organized by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) – at Ernestine Anderson Place.
Panel moderator Mark Putnam, director of the Committee to End Homelessness (CEH), said they were all present to “share some information about Nickelsville.”
“We’re actively discussing with some of our partners here and some of you how we can create supportive environments for people living in encampments.”
Since 2005, 36,000 people have moved from going without stable housing to permanent housing in King County.
“We would like to propose to you that we work together. We really, really honestly believe that would be the best for everyone,” said panel speaker Heather Dobson, who manages external affairs for the Nickelsville location at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (LCGS) at 22nd Avenue and East Union Street.
Working together on issues – communication, cultural sensitivity and consideration, and strategic planning – is also important to Friends of Little Saigon, an ID organization of small business owners.
Dobson said, “Of course, if we cannot correct the pattern of serious incidents, we will leave.”
She also talked about the encampment’s agreement with LCGS – the church sponsor of the new location in the ID.
“The contract (between LCGS and Nickelsville) will establish how long we will be there. We’re asking for a renewable six-month period. It will also establish a code of conduct and establish terms for eviction,” said Dobson.
Peggy Hotes, another panel speaker, is Nickelsville’s registered agent who does bookkeeping for the encampment and occasionally stays at its 22nd and Union site. “I do a lot of odds and ends for Nickelsville,” she said.
On finding potential sites for the encampment, she said, “We have been looking, particularly in the last six months, all over Seattle for a site: West Seattle, University District, maybe the Central District again. And we weren’t able to find anything.”
“It’s our belief that Nickelsville should be on public property,” she said. “We establish a site search committee well before the move.”
“We drove around and took pictures of 30 different, empty sites. We wrote letters asking for meetings, and we got one response.”
The International District location for Nickelsville – 1001 South Dearborn Street – will be on private property. “That site was selected because that’s the only one we have,” Hotes added.
Several panel speakers talked about what community residents should do when they see violence or drug and alcohol use by a Nickelsville resident.
“They can contact our staff person, Scott Morrow. We can also see people at Nickelsville if you come to our security place. We will have only one entrance at the new place, so anyone is welcome to come and report to us if they have an issue,” Dobson said.
Tam Nguyen, president of Friends of Little Saigon, asked the panelists, “Have you promised to be at this particular location, how long it’s going to be?”
Dobson answered, “A renewable six months. That means after six-months-time, if the Coho family or any surrounding resident reports issues to us, we take all of our incident reports down so we have a record.”
“If we have any pattern of behavior that is not covered by our agreement with the Coho family, and we are in violation of it, then, of course, we will leave.”
Morrow said the agreement will be made available to the public.
“What we hear a lot is ‘we support Nickelsville.’ Everyone supports Nickelsville, but nobody wants it in their neighborhood so that’s very difficult on us as well. And we are the doing the best we can to notify everyone,” Dobson said.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Panel