by: Natasha Chen Updated:
SEATTLE - A woman accused of abandoning her child at a homeless camp Monday night said she regrets leaving him in someone else's care.
"It sounds real bad, and it sounds real nasty, but no, that's not the case that was going on," Donna Nelson said.
Nelson's 7-year-old and her 3-year-old sons are now in Child Protective Services' custody.
Nelson has been homeless since this spring, when her home in Federal Way flooded. She had been a baby-sitter, and has since been jobless. Nelson said she and her children moved into the camp at 2020 South Jackson St., one of three sites known as Nickelsville.
Monday morning, a nurse with the King County Public Health Department visited the camp to tell Nelson that a voucher was available for her to take her children to a motel.
Public Health officials said that, with an alarming trend of children living at the homeless camps this year, programs have increased resources to help those families get housing. But shelters are often full, and vouchers are not always available.
In this case, Donna Nelson was given bus passes to go to the YWCA after 5 p.m. Monday to register for her motel. Nelson told KIRO 7 she tried to take both her sons with her, but her 7-year-old wanted to stay behind and play with other kids.
She let him.
"There were other people who were supposed to be there, watching over my children," she said.
Nelson named two people, whom she said she has known for years, to look after her 7-year-old son. She and the 3-year-old then took the bus to the YWCA.
But when KIRO 7 asked residents at Nickelsville, they said they were never told to watch the boy.
In retrospect, Nelson said she should have just taken him with her. She said that she did not have transportation to go back to Nickelsville for her son.
The Low Income Housing Institute, one of several agencies trying to help camp residents, said this was avoidable.
Charese Jones, Nelson's case manager, said, "If someone were to call me and say, 'Hey Charese, can you help Donna out about getting this voucher?' I would have shot down to the YWCA myself."
LIHI started helping Nickelsville residents at the Jackson Street site after the residents moved there in early September. Jones said that after this incident, they now have better communication with the other agencies involved.
Nelson said CPS currently has both her sons. She also has an 18-year-old daughter, who does not live with them.
"I feel every pain of my children," Nelson said. "I feel very hurt about it. 'I love you babies,'" she said. "That's all I got to say to my babies. 'Stand up for your mama, and I'm going to stick up to this case until you come home. So you guys be safe, Boo.'"