King County, WA, which includes Seattle, may seem above average in affluence, but you couldn't prove that to the 8,439 homeless people documented in the annual homeless count last January. More than 2,500 of those people were unsheltered, living on the streets. Back in April, Seattle's Mayor Nickels passed an ordinance pretty much forbidding homeless people to sleep anywhere on public property. I've been following homeless people's struggle in Seattle here and here. Meanwhile, 34 people have died this year while living on the streets. Homeless organizers and their advocates have come up with an alternative to the endless sweeps of homeless encampments. They asked Mayor Nickels to give them a piece of city hand for a more permanent encampment. When no city hall solution was forthcoming, homeless people took the matter into their own hands. This Monday, a 100 tent encampment called Nickelsville opened at 7115 W. Marginal Way SW. (The site, one of four considered, was not revealed until the very last minute to prevent city intervention.)
Today is the day Mayor Nickels has said he will send in the troops to evict everyone. Of course, he has no alternative for them. Perhaps, like Springfield MA's administration and so many other cities, he thinks they can just "go elsewhere." Well, just where is Elsewhere? And how many homeless people already live there?
Tent cities are springing up everywhere. Seattle's mayor should be grateful that people are organizing on their own behalf to find some way to meet some of their needs through the coming winter. You can call him and tell him to leave Nickelsville alone at 206-684-CITY (206-684-2489) or send him an email at City of Seattle. You can follow homeless peoples' organizing in Seattle at Real Change, Seattle's homeless newspaper, at Nickelsville's home page, or at Apesma's Lament, the blog of Tim Harris, ED of Real Change.