Tag: Nickelsville

Nickelsville Gets a Reprieve; Regional Homelessness Discussions Get an Extension

1. King County’s Regional Policy Committee passed a much-amended plan to create a regional homelessness authority yesterday morning, but supporters acknowledged that it would go through more amendments once it reached the Seattle City Council, which has raised increasing alarms over a proposal some members say merely “shifts the deck chairs on the Titanic”—a metaphor that has been in constant rotation during the regional planning process.

Although the plan passed the RPC unanimously with some new amendments (an effort by Seattle council president Bruce Harrell to increase the number of governing board votes required to amend budgets and policies and hire and fire the executive director of the new authority failed), the city council sounded more skeptical of the plan than ever at a special committee meeting Thursday afternoon.

The council’s main objections highlighted the rift between suburban cities (who want several seats on the governing board, explicit suburban representation on the board of experts, and the authority to draft their own sub-regional homelessness plans) and the city of Seattle.

The first point of contention: Why should Seattle give suburban cities so much say over composition and policies of the new authority when they’re contributing nothing financially? The legislation the RPC adopted yesterday explicitly bans the regional authority from raising revenues, which means that the only funding sources are Seattle—contributing 57% of the authority’s initial budget—and King County. (Residents of suburban cities, like Seattle, also pay county taxes, but their contribution is small and indirect compared to what Seattle is putting on the table.)

“The city of Seattle has been very generous in subsidizing the needs of non-Seattle residents … and yet that reciprocity is pretty much nonexistent in terms of how this deal is structured.” — Seattle city council member Lorena Gonzalez

“I had always had the impression, going all the way back to One Table”—a task force that was supposed to come up with regional solutions to homelessness—”that we were going to have a conversation about our funding needs,” council member Lisa Herbold said. “I don’t know why we would, in the structure, foreclose our option to do that.”

Council member Lorena Gonzalez added: “The city of Seattle has been very generous in subsidizing the needs of non-Seattle residents … and yet that reciprocity is pretty much nonexistent in terms of how this deal is structured.” 

Council members raised similar objections about the fact that the legislation now requires “regional sub-planning,” which means that different parts of the county could create their own homelessness policies, and that the new authority’s five-year plan would be required to reflect (and fund) those policies, even non-evidence-based strategies like high-barrier housing that requires sobriety. Gonzalez said that the question for her was, “Should municipalities who want to primarily or solely focus on non-evidence-based strategies to address homelessness… be able to qualify to receive money from these pooled resources? And the answer for me is no, they should not.”

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A larger, but related, issue council members raised Thursday is the fact that the new body would keep power where it has always been—in the hands of elected officials, who would make up two-thirds of the governing board that would wield most of the power over the new authority. Originally, the idea behind creating a new regional authority was to create a “de-fragmented system” where experts, including people with lived experience of homelessness, could make decisions on policy without feeling swayed by political considerations like the need to get reelected. The new plan, as Herbold pointed out, “flips [that] script.”

Gonzalez agreed, saying that without new revenue authority, and with a structure controlled by elected officials, the regional authority will be “AllHome 2.0″—a powerless body controlled by people making decisions for political reasons. “I don’t want us to fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing something transformative,” she said..

For a moment near the end of the meeting, council member Sally Bagshaw, who has spent months negotiating the plan with the county, seemed to agree. Moving toward a regional approach to homelessness, she said, was “a journey worth taking.” But “whether I would say that it’s transformational— I can’t go that far.”

2. The Northlake tiny house village, which had been slated for closure on Monday, December 9, got a reprieve Thursday morning in the form of a memo from Human Services Department Director Jason Johnson saying that the encampment could stay in place until March of next year. (I reported the news on Twitter Thursday morning).

Continue reading “Nickelsville Gets a Reprieve; Regional Homelessness Discussions Get an Extension”

The City Swept an Encampment Near the Ballard Locks. Here’s Where the Campers Went


About a week ago, the city cleared an encampment near the Ballard Locks that has been the subject of countless complaints in the past few months, despite the fact that it’s easy to overlook if you aren’t specifically looking for it. The camp has been stubbornly persistent over the past year or so, and when I visited several months ago, about a dozen people were living there, spread out in tents across a few hundred square feet of brushy land elevated above the street and tucked behind some trees.

Currently, complaining constantly to the city is one (unofficial, but effective) way to get them to come out and force people to move along; a proposed update to those rules aims to provide clearer guidance on which encampments are prioritized for removal, what kind of notice the city must provide, and how the city decides which items to save and store and which ones to throw away.

A story in the Ballard News Tribune reported that 12 “campers” had been “relocated” after the recent sweep, and “all campers were provided alternative shelter locations.” This struck me as highly unlikely, given that the reason people tend to live outside is because the only available shelter beds are at places that require them to relinquish or risk their possessions, sleep on the floor next to hundreds of other people, split up with their partners and abandon their pets, or submit to Christian programming including mandatory church attendance. Many require guests to be sober, too—a tough standard for many to meet, given that addiction is a physical disease.

So here’s what actually happened to those 12 or so individuals, according to Chloe Gale. Gale is the program director for REACH, the organization that provides outreach and offers services during encampment sweeps. REACH has been working with encampment residents “for about a year,” Gale says, “trying to figure out good solutions for the folks who were living there.”

One man got connected to a case manager and is being assessed for housing. (Gale said he didn’t want to go to the nearby Nickelsville encampment because the last time he was there, someone stole his bike.) One man received a special Section 8 voucher set aside for people with disabilities, and is moving to his new apartment in March. Two got their names put on the list for this year’s Section 8 voucher lottery, which will distribute vouchers to 3,500 people over the next two or three years. (The last time the Seattle Housing Authority held a lottery, 19,000 people signed up for a chance to win 2,500 vouchers.) One went back to sleeping on a friend’s couch. One got a bed at Peter’s Place, a shelter that allows people to store their stuff during the day and to have their own bed and sheets, rather than having to line up for a bed each night. And a couple told REACH they had bought a van, which they are now going to live in (and, if they’re lucky, lay low enough not to set off a new round of neighbor complaints.)

The rest of the encampment residents went off to set up camp somewhere else, declining REACH’s offer of shelter elsewhere. Gale says that’s understandable. “Generally, the beds we can offer are in shelters that many people don’t want to go to, like the shelters downtown where people may have to line up to get a bed, so they may not have a guarantee,” Gale says. “Often, these are shelters with mats on the floor. For someone in Ballard to come downtown to city hall to sleep on the floor might not make a whole lot of sense.”

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