So, Mayor Nickels did send the police in Friday to clear out Nickelsville, as promised. Fortunately, the Church Council of Greater Seattle was able to get Ron Judd from Governor Gregoire’s office to negotiate a temporary reprieve and 42 of the tents were moved to a parking lot on state land until Wednesday, according to accounts in the Times and PI. Twenty two chose to be arrested to make their point while the police tore down the pink tents and wooden shanty town structures residents and their helpers were already constructing.
Where are the people to go, though? According to the PI, “on Thursday night, about 140 people slept in Nickelsville”. The Times claims that the city has offered shelter to all that want it and only 14 Nickelsville residents have taken them up on the offer. Thursday’s PI quotes the Mayor’s spokesperson, Karin Zaugg Black, as saying that “shelters beds were ‘available for everyone or anyone.’ ‘We’ve never had to turn anyone away’ from a shelter after removing him or her from a camp, she said.
But according to the Nickelsville website:
Mayor Nickels continues to argue that there are shelters available. Friday night after Nickelsville was evicted from City land, Operation Nightwatch was still unable to find shelters for all who asked despite the Mayor’s statement that 60-80 new beds would be opened that night. They referred people to the now reduced in size Nickelsville operating in the nearby State of Washington DOT parking lot.
Also according to the Nickelsville site:
During the One Night Count of January 2008, it was found that 8439 people were homeless in King County. 5808 had shelter through existing programs but 2631 were without, a 15% increase over last year. 34 homeless people have died outside this year alone.
While I don’t like the idea of the return of shantytown “Hoovervilles” or a Nickelsville, where are these people supposed to go? At the rate we’re going, both towards ever increasing rents as Seattle goes condo, and with the economy tanking (couldn’t we turn some of those condos into low income housing?), I fear I may end out on the street some day in the not to distant future. A shanty would be more comfortable than sleeping outside or in a tent. It’s becoming in America like it is in the so called third world, isn’t it? There’s going to be the rich in their condos and gated communities, with a vanishing middle class, and the rest of us living in shanty slums.
Yet, consider this – the dignity and determination of those building Nickelsville, while the Mayor, sitting in his comfortable home and office, does nothing to help, only threatening to evict everyone, claiming to put them in shelter space that doesn’t exist. Yet, Mayor Nickels always has time to help his friend Paul Allen build another stadium (ironically, where Hooverville in Seattle used to stand) or unneeded trolley to the neighborhood Paul and his friends are developing.
Have a heart, Mayor Nickels. Let these people stay, or find them real shelter.