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The new Nickelsville: Three camps in the Central District


Campers have been fueling fires with scrap wood given to them by a construction crew across the street. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

As the rain returned to Seattle Thursday evening, four people huddled around a small campfire in a lot behind the Arco AM/PM gas station at 23rd and Cherry. Surrounded by 28 tents set on top of homemade platforms built from old pallets, the 32 residents of the Cherry St homeless camp prepared for another night in their new Central District home.

The camp is the third and most recent community to move into the CD following the exodus of the longtime Nickelsville encampment on Marginal Way in Delridge. The camp follows two other Nickelsville communities that moved into the Central District in September. A camp at 22nd and Union has around 25 residents and the camp at 20th and Jackson has around 20, according to Nickelsville staff person Scott Morrow.

The Cherry camp, which had been located in Skyway, moved December 2nd onto a empty lot owned by the Cherry Hill Baptist Church. Despite the significant time and energy spent to construct the encampment, the group currently is only authorized to stay through February. Jamie McDaniels, who moved from the Skyway camp to the new Cherry location, said he and fellow residents were relieved to find the space but they’re already worried about having to move in three months.

“Could you imagine having to move everything you own every ninety days?” he said. “Logistically it’s a nightmare.”


The tent city abuts a private home on 22nd St. Campers said neighbors have been very accommodating. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

McDaniel’s said the group is eyeing a longer-term space at 15th and Spring. The camp, like the two other Nickelsville communities, has three portable toilets and a large dumpster. A guard shack, occupied 24 hours a day, sits in front of the camp’s chain-link fence entrance on 22nd. Campers constructed a large protected kitchen area and common space for a campfire.

Residents must abide by a code of conduct, which includes a ban on alcohol and drugs, weapons, and abusive behavior. The campsite is nearly packed, but McDaniel’s said they’re permitted to house 75 residents.

Among the three CD Nickelsville camps,  Cherry is the largest. Morrow told CHS that Union and Jackson will likely stay in their current locations through September 2014. Camps must be sponsored by churches according to city ordinance. The Union camp, which is restricted to families, is sponsored by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is sponsoring the camp on Jackson.

Nickelsville community members say they fund their operations through a mix of church support, government assistance, and neighborhood volunteers.

Earlier this year the City of Seattle announced it would be evicting the Nickelsville community from their longtime Marginal Way encampment. In June, the City Council approved a $500,000 contract with the Union Gospel Mission to help “transition” campers off of the city-owned lot. After the previous moves went down over the summer, residents at Cherry St told CHS they have yet to receive any assistance from UGM.

In an email to CHS, a UGM spokesperson said “The one misconception that is out there is that the Mission received a $500,000 check. That is not the case. As expenses occurs, rents for apts., furniture, etc., we request reimbursement of fund from the City of Seattle.”

One CDNews reader and Jackson camp neighbor said she and another neighbor brought wood to camp residents when temperatures dropped last week, but they were overwhelmed with the number of people when they arrived. “I don’t even know what to do … there are people living outside at the end of my street,” she said.

For more about the camps and how to get involved, check out the Nickelsville Works Facebook page.

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8 thoughts on “The new Nickelsville: Three camps in the Central District

  1. How much money is being spent to frequently build these outdoor camps, only to move again in a few months? Wouldn’t the money be better spent to get some of these folks into semi-permanent, indoor housing?

    • That is an excellent point. Shuttling these people around the city only makes it harder for them to develop routines and certainties conducive to improving their station (and eventually finding proper accommodations).

      We need to bring back the Hooverville — dedicated space where people can build improvised housing and access social services. This constant migration is ridiculous.

  2. those are both very rational statements ,but having lived that dream i can say rational has nothing to do with the place..getting out of the place is last thing that scott marrow inc. would like… the more homeless people at his command the more power he has with the city,,the more money he can get from them the more donations come in and disappear..he has weaponized the homeless of seattle for his personal agenda…if he doesnt get what he wants he has closed shelters …forces people to sleep outside city hall or go back to the street ..evil operation altogether …do not give him any money

  3. a bit more on nickelsville first it does not exist on paper ,no tax exempt status so any receipt for donations is not tax deductible is funded by a shady non-profit run by his girlfriend and a lawyer who works from a rent a desk and post office box.scotts girlfriend keeps the books and has never shown them to anyone and wont..i am surprise he identified himself as a staff member as he usually goes by unpaid consultant ..he runs the whole thing out of his back pocket..although he makes all the decisions (think dictator for life) but will tell you its a democracy ..but there is one difference because no one can vote him out and if anyone even speaks about it they are evicted on some trumped up charge and thats just the tip of the sordid iceberg…and i will say i dont have a problem with the place or people there.. just the vicious underhanded way it is run by morrow and company

  4. Why is Seattle funding a MANDATORY RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION; an organization that has an extremely high failure rate of helping anyone?

  5. With all of the camps and tent cities that are supposedly devoted to helping people get off the streets and to find jobs and stability in a time when we are all bleeding financially, you would think that these “sites” would work harder to actually advocate towards bettering the situation for each and every person. I have watched people I love struggle out there, searching for a job to bring their families out to the Seattle/Washington area, and they had ended up in such camps after running out of money and being stuck there from outa state with no way to get home to those who anxiously await there return or news of a job that can change their lives and that of theoir childrens lives as well. I understand that they offer some amazing services obviously much better than living on the streets (especially in a freezing rainy winter) however for all the good that they do, why does the bad seem to outweigh all the good? Throwing ppl out into the pouring rain with no place to go and not a dime to eat or get anywhere to even get shelter, all due to petty things such as missed security details. (In his case he was late because he was at an orientation for a job, and when he couldn’t find the number for the place to tell anyone his circumstances, it took him 2 hours to find his way back (keep in mind he is from another state entirely and might as well have been dropped on the moon, directionally) but so here he is in a strange town, broke, trying to find a job, any job just to get back to his wife and three children and because of an error, he is on the street. Wet, freezing and without the resourses to get himself anywhere warm or better..what will he do to survive? Intentionally goto jail. How is that help at all. For all you give, if when ppl are tryingt o better themselves by actually getting a job, why drop them out of the sky with nothing? What do we honestly expect as a country for ppl to do to survive, to get home to their families…ANYTHING they have to is the answer.

  6. Pingback: Trespass stats, storefront homeless camps point to increase in people living on streets of Capitol Hill | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle