A battle between the city of Seattle and homeless advocates over the fate of a tiny home village has been going on for seven months. Recently, the city announced it would shut down Northlake Tiny Home Village for good because the residents there won’t allow the city contractors access to the site.
The players in this conflict are a developer of low income housing called the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) which contracts with Seattle to run a series of tiny home villages for the homeless. On the other side is a group of homeless advocates called Nickelsville which encourages residents of the villages to essentially form their own government to run the village however they see fit.
Back in April, the Nickelsville group decided to lock out LIHI employees from Northlake, literally putting a lock on the door and refusing to let them enter. As a result, the city is unable to gather data on the village and homeless people who are supposed to stay there temporarily until they can be moved to permanent housing, are not moving on. Northlake has become the world’s saddest gated community:
The institute has blamed the organization that’s been operating Northlake, Nickelsville, a group of homeless and formerly homeless activists, for keeping them off the property. Nickelsville staff and volunteers have said they keep LIHI staff, besides the case manager, off-property because they’re afraid of a takeover.
“To us, autonomy is very important,” said John Travena, 48, who’s lived at Northlake since January. “That we control who comes in and goes out.”
Sources from both sides have described loud confrontations, and three homeless people have been permanently banned from the village. A long-standing bedbug problem has gotten so bad, one of the tiny houses is uninhabitable; the woman who lived there has been sleeping in the kitchen…
The only LIHI employee Nickelsville residents have allowed in has been the case manager, who asked not to be named for fear of blowback from Nickelsville allies. The case manager described residents telling him he couldn’t walk freely in the village but had to go straight from the gate to his office — something that’s happened at the village before.
After two confrontational phone calls, the case manager hasn’t been back to the village since Aug. 5, he said, although some residents say it’s been even longer.
This idea of a “takeover” by LIHI doesn’t make much sense given that the entire village is on city land. The generosity of taxpayers seems to be getting overlooked. Sharon Lee, the executive director of LIHI, says the situation has become ridiculous:
“I think they’ve taken this direction of self-management and self-empowerment way too far,” said Lee, referring to the Nickelsville Northlake Village leadership…
Will, who’s been homeless since 1981, moved to Seattle from Alaska in 2002. He said the 19 people who live at Northlake are self-sufficient and always have been…
“We are a mini government, a subset a self-ruling community,” Will said…
Again, the thing that homeless Will seems to have missed is that he doesn’t own the property. Taxpayers are also paying people to provide services that aren’t being delivered because of the lockout. Sunday the Seattle Times’ editorial board published a piece lashing out at far left City Council members who have been bending over backwards to support Nickelsville:
This epitomizes the ineffective, wasteful and harmful practices that are prolonging and worsening Seattle’s homeless crisis. It highlights why voters must elect City Council members focused on solutions, not the ideological status quo.
A compassionate, problem-solving council would demand better performance. It would support city housing-office efforts to improve outcomes at shelters, require them to meet the city’s basic performance standards and ensure that homeless people receive the best possible support.
Instead, incumbent council members, and at least one new candidate, have supported Nickelsville’s demands. In May, candidate Tammy Morales praised Nickelsville in a letter urging mediation sought by the activist group. It led to a petition demanding mediation.
Bizarrely, Morales cast this as a struggle between service providers and “big moneyed interests.” In this case the big money is not from Amazon — it came from Seattle taxpayers, who expect vendors to do what they promised and help more people get housed…
Vote to end this foolishness and get problem solvers on the City Council.
So long as residents keep electing leaders like socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, they are going to keep getting treated like the bad guys even as the council demands more of their money and public property for solutions that aren’t working.
KOMO News has a video report on this that’s worth watching, buy you’ll have to click over to their site to view it.