The fallout from last week’s eviction of the Nickelsville camp near the intersection of Seattle’s two interstates has reached the Central District. Around 20 former Nickelsville campers have temporarily relocated to the UMOJA P.E.A.C.E Center property at 24th and E Spring. A dozen sleeping tents and a kitchen tent went up on the property earlier this week.
The now displaced residents of the sanctioned tent and tiny house encampment on Dearborn Ave. were evicted by property owners Coho Real Estate after the campers voted to disassociate from the Nickelsville organization and run the camp themselves, citing unfair treatment by the Nickelsville leadership. Coho had partnered with the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd to sponsor the site and lawfully host it on its property.
After the vote, Coho said alcohol and drug use in the camp had made the camp untenable. Nickelsville maintains strict sobriety rules for residents. The UMOJA encampment appears to be taking a more lenient approach. Patacara Community Services, which is offering assistance and its nonprofit status to the temporary campers, outlined the camp’s policies in a statement this week:
Harm reduction supplies are being made available to camp members who need them and we are in the process of updating the camp’s program model to align with best practices and contemporary research for substance abuse treatment and counseling. My vision is to cultivate a community where people who use intoxicants responsibly, people who are struggling with addition, people in recovery, and people who choose sobriety ALL feel safe and supported together.
Troy Morgan, the camp’s elected spokesperson, told CHS the UMOJA camp has a no drugs and alcohol policy and that the reason many left Nickelsville was because those rules were not being followed.
“We’re just trying to get off the streets,” he said.
It’s unclear how long the camp will stay or how long City Hall will allow it. Sanctioned camps must have a long-term agreement with a property owner and religious organization. Some of those residents booted in last week’s eviction moved to a legal Nickelville’s camp in Othello.
Morgan said the campers are currently looking for a religious organization to sponsor the encampment on the UMOJA property or somewhere else. UMOJA founder Omari Garrett said the campers would be welcome to stay as long as they want.
“This is called effective utilization of space,” he said.
The camp is on the same block as Midtown Center, a closely watched Central District property that many feel is ripe for development.
At 22nd and E Union, another Good Shepard homeless encampment planned for 15 “tiny homes” has risen on a church-owned property at 22nd and E Union.
How the City “supports” people moving out of non-permitted encampments on public property has received a considerable amount of attention this year. The City Council recently approved a homeless emergency funding plan that included $1.5 million for encampment sweeps, which will fund nine outreach workers, cleanup crews, motel vouchers, and rehousing efforts.