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Seattle City Council wants to disband Nickelsville tent city

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle officials want to break up the two-year old homeless encampment called Nickelsville, but residents there say that would just cause a new tent city to spring up somewhere else.

Seven city council members sent a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn Monday calling for Nickelsville to shut down by Sept. 1. The camp, made up of more than 100 homeless people, is about to begin its third summer parked near the Duwamish River in southeastern West Seattle.

The council members say the location is not sustainable, and Nickelsville residents agree: there are no city services and limited police protection, and it’s prone to flooding and pest problems. Council members went so far as to call it a public health and safety emergency.

But residents say you can’t just disband Nickelsville. Reached at the encampment, Trace De Garmo said tent cities fill a need, which won’t go away on Sept. 1.

“If they took every person here and offered them housing, some of those that don’t take it will go set up somewhere else. And others will join them because for every person here, out there in the greenbelt and the jungle there’s 10, 15, 20 more people,” De Garmo said.

Residents are asking instead for city help to move to new locations, but they want to stay together as one or two groups.

The letter to McGinn, signed by the whole council except for Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, suggests spending extra money to find affordable housing and shelter options for the residents.

McGinn had previously asked the council to explore either shoring up or relocating Nickelsville. He released a statement saying he would follow the council’s directive, and will evict residents as of Sept. 1.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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