The federal agency that works on solving homelessness has written a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn supporting the end of Nickelsville. A seven-member majority of the Seattle City Council on Monday ordered the mayor to clear Nickelsville by Sept. 1. They pledged to help the more than 100 residents of the encampment find shelter, but said the encampment could not stay at its location on West Marginal Way.
The mayor and Councilmember Nick Licata were pursuing a new location for Nickelsville, and at a meeting Wednesday, some members of the council still indicated a willingness to consider supporting an encampment in the city.
The federal government has never supported encampments. But while that’s not new, their letter offers support to the council as it makes a politically challenging decision.
More than 100 homeless residents of encampments packed the council chambers Wednesday to oppose the closure. They say Nickelsville and similar encampments offer long-term shelter for families and people with pets. And with too few shelter beds in the city, they said people will die of exposure if they’re not allowed to stay safely together in encampments.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness wrote Thursday that they oppose sanctioned encampments and don’t think letting homeless people camp outside serves homeless people well.
“At best, it is a temporary and reactive response to homelessness, but a response that can detract from connecting people with the services and housing they need,” the letter says. “In addition, the encampments generate risks for their inhabitants related to safety, health and sanitation. The costs associated with trying to ensure the well-being of people living in encampments could be spent more strategically creating lasting housing and services solutions.”
The letter offers a long list of cities that have successfully cleared encampments, including New Oreleans, Philadelphia, and St. Paul, Minn.