Council gets a warning about dismantling homeless camp

Jun 13, 2013

Homeless residents of a large Seattle tent city warn that closing down their camp will have dire consequences, while city council members left the door open to keep the camp dwellers together.

About 125 residents make their home at the West Seattle site known as Nickelsville. Advocates told members of a city council committee Wednesday that many of those tent dwellers will die on the streets if the city moves forward with threatened evictions September 1st.

Jarvis Capucion said he’s both a resident and a worker at another tent city. Fighting back tears, he said that lawful encampments like his don’t have room to take on any Nickelsville refugees.

“As a homeless person, I'm ashamed to have to tell another homeless person, ‘I’m sorry. You can’t stay here. We’re full,’” Capucion said.

After public testimony before the committee, about 50 residents and supporters left the council chambers and staged what they called a “die-in” on the steps of City Hall.

Stance softening?

Meanwhile inside, the committee seemed to be softening its stance on Nickelsville just a bit. Seven council members had signed a letter Monday calling for the West Seattle camp to be dismantled, citing health and safety concerns and lawsuits from neighbors. They propose spending a half-million dollars to house people. Nick Licata was not one of the signers, and he warned that Nickelsville likely wouldn’t go quietly.

“X percent of those people, we don’t know how many, are going to refuse to leave because they are afraid, they have no place to go. And then we’re going to be faced with, I think, not a good photo op,” Licata said.

Two members who signed the letter, Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell, indicated they wouldn’t rule out reworked legislation that would give Nickelsville a better chance to move and stay together. It’s up for a public hearing later this month. Nickelsville could also relocate under current laws that allow encampments on land controlled by religious organizations, or under a temporary use permit.