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Seattle will shut down Nickelsville, spend $500K to house residents

The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to shut down the homeless encampment known as Nickelsville, and to set aside $500,000 to help residents transition.

The encampment has been dug in for two years at a site in West Seattle, and the council vote means this summer will be its last. The money will go to providing to provide housing and services to the more than 100 campers who live there.

Nickelsville residents worry breaking up the camp will simply scatter people into smaller illegal camps at great risk to their health and safety. They say encampments are a necessary option in the face of a shortage of affordable housing.

But people in the nearby neighborhoods say the city had put off dealing with the unsanctioned camp for far too long. Carolyn Stauffer, co-chair of the Highland Park Action Committee, said the council’s solution isn’t ideal, but at least it addresses the problem, and does so with some compassion.

“A lot of neighbors that I’m hearing from this that’s a lot of money to basically buy off the encampment, to give to people that have been illegally squatting for over two years,” Stauffer said. “But it’s better than kicking people out. I mean, we didn’t want to just ay go away, and go in some other neighborhood.”

Stauffer said the council’s move still leaves a lot of unanswered questions, such as who will qualify for the city assistance. Might homeless people from elsewhere flock to Nickelsville to take advantage of the special help?

The city’s Human Services director will choose a nonprofit group to administer the money and the services. The camp is supposed to be vacated by 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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