Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wither Nickelsville

I reently attended a meeting for Nickelsville to discuss the future of Seattle's homeless encampment. Residents have to leave their current home, the University Congrational United Church by March 5, and currently have nowhere else to go. This is the Nickelodeons second home in the U District.
There were about 75 people in attendance and one thing was made the clear, Nickeleville isn't about to disband. According to Peggy Hotes, one of the on-stage speakers, a permanent site REMAINS the number one goal of the Nickelsville residents.
That was also the feeling of just about everyone who spoke from the floor. People in the hall did vote for finding a temporary home as the next thing to do but philosophically they want Nickelsville to find a permanent home.
I said there were plenty of places for Nickelsville. There were 39 proposed sites for the jail, and 34 of those were in South or Southwest Seattle which is where the city wants to dump such a facility. The Nickelodeons are a little more open-minded; they're considering the entire city, and are still looking into sites not owned by the city.
I think my comments from the floor made one of the Nickelsville leaders nostalgic. ``The first site we had (at Marginal Way and Highland) was being considered for a prison spot. That was a great spot for Nickelsville.'' Well I remember that Thursday night, two days after Nickelsville opened, when people came from all over, building a kitchen, a sign-in house, and putting up pink tents. And then the next morning, the city came and destroyed it.
There was also one guy in the audience who said Nickelsville should change its name because it was too political and scared away support from some housing groups. The response from the rest of the gathering was a resounding no. My friend Margaret, who's an outsider (she cooked one time for Nickelsville), was the hero of the day. She gave a passionate speech about why Nickelsville should keep its name and stay in Seattle. I think she said something about corrupt politicians as well. She received the loudest applause of the afternoon.
As for Nickelsville's namesake, supposedly there's a poll in existance that shows former City Council president Peter Steinbrueck ahead of Nickels in the mayoral race. What an irony it would be: Nickelsville, which they said would never last, lasting longer than Mayor Nickels.


megan said...

Thanks, Ray. I love this entry! Why is there always somebody who thinks that "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable" is too scary & political? If the group had caved in to that sentiment, the next meeting would feature an argument that the camp should be dismantled because it offended somebody or other!

Megan Cornish

onefalsestep said...

The question about whether Nickelsville should change its name reminds of last summer when the Real Change Organizing Project decided to have some people get arrested as a protest to Mayor Nickels' sweeps. Our group was told we would lose the support of other homeless groups and I was told that the group should work with Tim Burgess on the Seattle City Council. About two days later, Burgess came out and said the sweeps were fine with him. BTW, Megan is the author of Viva La Raza, a history of Chicanos. I highly recommend it.