Committee Continues Work On Nickelsville Relocation

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Last week in my Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture (HHSHC) committee the 3 Councilmembers in attendance there with me agreed to continue working on one of the 3 options I wrote about two weeks ago to help Nickelsville relocate from their current location.

Nickelsville residents have been camping outside on City-owned property on West Marginal Way for two years.   Because of the conditions of the site and the Council’s desire to support a Food Lifeline project planned for the same location, everyone agrees – the Council, the Mayor, the public, and Nickelsville residents themselves – that the current situation is not sustainable.  I’ve been trying to ensure that we work together to find a way to facilitate the relocation of the residents of the Nickelsville encampment.

The options that Councilmembers O’Brien, Bagshaw, and Harrell agreed merit further consideration include proposed C.B. 117791, to allow for the legal permitting of transitional one-year encampments, together with new funding to assist those Nickelsville residents who want an alternative to living in outdoor encampments. The funding will be considered, on Monday, June 24th, in a separate bill, C.B. 117815. That bill will allocate $500,000 to provide outreach, case management, shelter, and housing to help move the campers at the encampment to appropriate shelter, housing and services

Encampments hosted by religious entities do not require a permit.  Councilmembers also agreed to continue to consider the option of providing resources to a religious facility or a nonprofit to help Nickelsville move under Seattle’s existing Religious Encampment Ordinance.   Under Seattle’s existing Religious Encampment Ordinance, no permit is required and Nickelsville would instead form a partnership with two different religious institutions, each of whom would rent 2 properties suitable for a Nickelsville residents.

Before my next HHSHC Committee meeting on June 26, 2pm where we will vote on one of these options, I have a public hearing on this encampment-related ordinance, which seeks to make more sites around the city potentially usable as hosts. Here’s the official notice with details.

I’m glad that we are working together to provide housing options for the folks at Nickelsville. The question I feel we have to ask is:  if these 140 Nickelsville residents move inside, does that end the responsibility for the city to play a public safety role on behalf of the other couple thousand people in Seattle sleeping outside on any given night?  I think as long as we have people sleeping outside, we have a responsibility to fulfill the Comprehensive Plan goal adopted by the City Council  to “guide the operation of safe and healthy transitional encampments to allow temporary shelter for those who are homeless.”