by: Gary Horcher Updated:SEATTLE —
With a unanimous vote, the Seattle City Council voted to spend $500,000 to re-locate residents of the city’s largest and oldest homeless encampment.
The vote means the Nickelsville homeless camp on Marginal Way will be completely shut down by September first. More than 130 residents will be contacted by outreach workers, to guide them into more permanent housing.
Supporters in the council called it a step toward ending homelessness in an area they call unsafe, prone to rat infestations, floods, and crime.
But the people who are supposed to be benefitting from the program aren’t sold. “Give me a break, they just came up with that $500,000 as conscience money,” said Trace DeGarvo, a two-year resident of Nickelsville.
DeGarvo broke down the allocation of the funds. “Half a million divided by the population here is about four-thousand a person. It’s a waste,” he said.
DeGarvo says most of the long-term Nickelsville residents will strongly resist moving where counselors want them to go. He believes many will move into nearby greenbelts and industrial areas in groups. “They’re gonna do that in the alleys and bear homes, and it’s going to cost money to clean up after them,” he said. “At least here, we’re centrally located, and everyone has a solid support structure.”
“It’s a band-aid,” said Michael Keever, a Nicklesville resident who agrees with DeGarvo. “There are a lot of spots around here to get groups together like this camp. I can turn every one of those spots into a Nickelsville,” he said. “You can spend a half-million dollars to shut this down, but I can make a 50 cent phone call and open one right back up. Who’s going to run out of money first?”
Still, council members believe the effort to help residents find permanent shelter is long overdue. “It’s a worthy undertaking,” said Council Chairperson Sally Clark, noting that details of the replacement shelters have yet to be made.
“Our goal is clear,” said Clark. “We will provide safe secure housing to (Nickelsville residents) to anyone willing to accept it.”