Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010 by and for Homeless People in Seattle & King County

Here is the declaration that was presented at a press conference on Monday at Nickelsville (a long-term outdoor encampment)-
it lists how to help those outside survive, and end homelessness in 8 points. our support with voice and action is needed to change the status of the non-housed in our city (& everywhere actually), PLEASE READ ON and help by spreading the word!>>>

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Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010 by and for Homeless People
in Seattle & King County

Four years into Seattle/King County’s Ten Year Plan to End
Homelessness, our numbers are at an all time high. Our shelters are
overcrowded, noisy, at times infested with bed bugs, and often consist
of little more than a mat on a floor. We have no place to store our
possessions, and so must carry them with us. Pushed onto the street in
the early morning hours, we are hidden from sight and forced to stay
on the move. We are unwelcome in your public spaces, and are harassed
by your police and private security when we stop to rest.

At least a third of us sleep outside, where we are subject to trespass
and arrest. Our belongings are routinely stolen and destroyed by
government workers who are “just doing their jobs.” When we camp in
cars, we are targeted for citations and our vehicles are towed and
impounded. When we come together to form safe, dignified communities,
we are threatened with arrest and our supporters are bullied with
threats and fines.

We die, on average, at 48 years of age. Nine of us have died by
suicide this year.

We are the working poor who have been set up to fail. Our low wages,
work insecurity, lack of healthcare, overcrowded and unaffordable
housing, and unreliable transportation leave us vulnerable to economic
disaster.

We are the expendable, the dehumanized, the written off, and the
devalued. We are the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the
addicted. We are the too poor, too uneducated, too old, and too
unemployable to matter. We are the human wreckage of a broken system
that denies its responsibility and blames us for our existence.

IT SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS. Homeless people deserve and are entitled to
the same protections as our housed brothers and sisters: a right to
health and housing, freedom from violence and stereotyping, the
ability to keep our families and loved ones together, and the tools to
move ahead and thrive.

In 2010, worse will come. King County, at the close of this year,
reduced human services funding by 46%. Youth shelter funding was
eliminated. Food banks funding was slashed to zero at a time of record
demand. The state budget crisis promises disaster. General Assistance
for the Unemployable, the State Housing Trust Fund, drug treatment
funding, and Basic Health Care are all to be eliminated.

OUR STATE OF EMERGENCY MUST BE RECOGNIZED. The Ten Year Plan to End
Homelessness is a fraud. The true causes of homelessness – rent
increases, gentrification, evictions, and the failure of the market to
provide affordable housing – aren’t dealt with, measured, or touched.
For every unit of affordable housing produced under the plan, three to
four have been lost to market forces.

Top leadership of the Plan has tokenized the participation of homeless
people, and has fallen deaf to our pleas for safety, shelter, and
community. The percentage of homeless people who are sheltered should
be a plan benchmark.

We can no longer wait for the expanded survival services we need today
while our “leaders” promise housing in the future.

HELP US TO SURVIVE AND SOLVE HOMELESSNESS:

1. EXPAND SURVIVAL SERVICES. Since the Ten Year Plan began,
homelessness has grown while emergency shelter supply has held steady
and funding for day centers has declined. Stop pretending and meet the
need with clean, simple decent shelter.
2. SUPPORT SELF-HELP HOMELESS GROUPS (like SHARE). When we run our own
shelters, we cost-effectively offer maximum dignity and community to
residents. Stable city funding will help us built community-wide
solutions to meet the growing need.
3. PROVIDE A PERMANENT SITE FOR NICKELSVILLE. We need a site big
enough for a non-moving eco village of up to 1,000. There are over
seventy sites in Seattle that will work and only one is needed.
4. COMPLETE THE HOMELESS REMEMBRANCE PROJECT to honor people who have
died while homeless. The Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park and
Leaves of Remembrance in sidewalks throughout the County will serve as
reminders to us all that homeless lives have value.
5. STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION. Citations for trespass violations,
panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks clog our courts and punish the
poor with fines and jail time while denying us due process under law.
6. EXPAND TREATMENT. Drug and alcohol treatment services save lives
and money. Punitive policies undermine public health goals and deepen
the misery and isolation that often underlies addiction.
7. PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION. As downtown gentrification has pushed more
services outside the free ride zone, access to bus transportation has
become a barrier to overcoming homelessness. Homeless people should
receive free bus passes.
8. SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Strategies to cost-effectively increase
supply must be prioritized over big-ticket infrastructure projects and
sports arenas. Encourage market solutions that don’t let excellent get
in the way of good. We need housing. Now.

This Declaration was written by people from, and is supported by the
SHARE, WHEEL, Nickelsville and Real Change Communities.

REAL CHANGE is Seattle’s 15-year-old Street Newspaper and a cross-
class Organizing Project to unite people in working for social
justice.
2129 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Web: realchangenews.org Email: organizer@realchangenews.or

WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League) is an
organizing effort of homeless and formerly homeless women.
P.O. Box 2548, Seattle WA 98118-0334
Web: sharewheel.org Email: wheelorg.@yahoo.com
Homeless remembrance project http://www.homeless project.org

SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) is an organization of
homeless and formerly homeless men and women working together to
survive and solve homelessness.
P.O. Boz 2548, Seattle WA 98118 (206) 448-7889
Web: http://www.sharewheel.org
NICKELSVILLE is presently a small organized encampment seeking to
become an eco-village of up to 1,000 homeless men, women and families
located on a permanent site with services.
(206) 450-9136
Web Nickelsvilleseattle.org Email: Scott@nickelsvilleseattle.org

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You Care About ME??

‘Rodney’ is back at Nickelsville. things didn’t work out where he was trying to stay, and from what I hear, it was probably a great decision to leave. So he came back, this time at the new location. it has been about 2 months since I had seen him. when he first saw us, he was so happy to see us! “you all still comin’ out here every week”. he said, excited to see our familiar faces (its stuff like that that’s why we can’t stay away!) In our gatherings, ‘Rodney’ is one who often shares his own struggles in his life. He is quick to see his faults and mistakes, as are we, which creates an environment of vulnerability and honest like no other.
In two weeks, ‘Rodney’ goes to school to get his CDL license. he had a suspended license but got that taken care of and now he’s saved up to go to school. hopefully he will be able to get a good paying job driving a truck so he can get off the streets and get a place of his own. it wasn’t that long ago, he did 9 years for making and selling Meth. “I’m done with the drugs man… no more for me”, he says. “I’m not going back there!” He’s had some problems with alcohol before, but holds up his Arizona Iced Tea to show me, “Ya see what I’m drinking now”, in his southern accent and ear to ear grin. He also told me of the many other felonies he had committed… all in his past. Struggling to make money, he finds himself living outside… at least in a safe place like Nickelsville!
After some conversation, he comes over after our gathering and tells me how bothered he is that hear that I was still having financial problems. He lives in a tent, in Nickelsville, (which is threatening to be kicked out of their current location next week, btw!) He’s concerned for MY well being… MY needs. “You are an amazing singer”, he tells me…”I know American Idol has an age limit, but you should go on America’s Got Talent… all you need is the right person to hear you and you’ll get signed”.
I laughed but was overpowered by his encouragement… and amazingly humbled by his genuine concern for me! I am consistenly floored by my friends who sleep outside, and how much they care for us and our well being! It is an eye-opening and heart-changing experience to hang out with my friends. They have incredible stories, and they share them with us… just because we see them, and we take the time to listen. the mind-blowing part is they see us back… and they want to listen to our stories, and encourage us… and love us!
“Don’t worry man… it will all work out ok for you” he says to me as I’m leaving.
I will never be the same!

What does Christmas mean to you?

As we go through the Advent season and head towards Christmas, I begin to reflect on this whole holiday season and what it means to me and what it has meant. I remember as a kid growing up… Christmas meant really one thing… getting presents! that was really it… lights, a tree, a big dinner… but really it all came down to ‘what did you GET for Christmas!’. this is often times the extent of meaning for many who ‘celebrate’ this season.

I also think of another important meaning for many during this season… the time to get together with family. For some this is a glorious time… seeing family members that they may not have seen in a while… or spending some ‘quality time’ with family members that may have been lacking in other times of year. For others, unfortunately, this might be a nightmare, especially if they do not have the best relationship with members of the their family, or if they grew up in an abusive or unhealthy family situation.

Or maybe it’s the prospect of snow (depending on where you live) and the romantic idea of a ‘white christmas’ and seeing a nice cold white blanket covering everything, creating a picturesque, ‘Christmas card’ moment to remember… or a snowball fight with the neighborhood kids… or sledding down steep hills to flashback to childhood days.

For some, the holidays bring a well needed and well deserved vacation from their highly demanding occupations… a break from the stress of a job.

As I have been thinking about the meaning of Christmas, my perspective has been challenged quite a bit for me this year… especially since i have made friends with a community of homeless people known as Nickelsville, who live in tents in a parking lot near UW in Seattle. I think differently about so many things in my life because of knowing this group homeless people. What do they think about Christmas time? What does Christmas mean to them? Presents? probably not. Family? If they had good relationships with their family, or if they have any family at all, they most likely wouldn’t be living on the street. And snow? I cringe at the thought of the people of NIckelsville sleeping outside while their tent is covered in snow and they are huddled up inside trying to keep from freezing to death. No pretty lights, no family reunion, no trimmed tree, no pile of presents… just the reality that this season could not end soon enough and that the cold and wet days of winter in Seattle would be over. This really messes with my perspective on the season for sure.

I think of a little baby being born out in that cold… no family around, just some strangers who happened to wander by. No bed to give birth in, no bed for the baby. Just using whatever is available to make things work… to try to get by. There was no room in the shelter available so they ended up there… feeling alone and rejected. And the baby… what kind of world would that little child be born into. This is no place for a baby to be. But yet it was just good enough for a certain baby named Emmanuel to enter the world. This is the story of a Saviour… named Jesus. he entered the world in a place much like Nickelsville. It was the only place available for those who have no place else to go.

So as far as the meaning of Christmas, this story is it. It is because of this story that I have become so mindful of those who are without… those who find themselves in great need. I think of the world and its great need for someone to come and bring light into a world full of darkness… and i think of Emmanuel… ‘God with Us’, coming and bringing that light that changed the world forever… making all things new.

So in the midst of all the craziness and the busy-ness that this season brings, despite all the stuff that comes along with it all… i find the meaning of it all in a poor child in a barn surrounded by strangers and shit and the freezing cold night air… and i think of those who live in that reality day and night… and i know that despite all of that… joy is there… and peace is there… and hope is there… and this is where Emmanuel shows up… right there with them.

Maybe this season we can come up with a better question to ask besides ‘What did you GET for Christmas’.

Maybe the question we should ask is ‘Where do you see Light in the midst of the dark this Christmas’ For me, I see it in my homeless friends at Nickelsville.

the story of Nickelsville…continued

well the story of nickelsville is definitely one that has it’s up’s and down’s… mostly downs it seems from the perspective of the media and mayor Nickels, who’s continuing threat and personal agenda to put an end to Nickelsville once and for all, has been chasing them out of every location they have popped up in.  

What is Nickelsville? http://www.nickelsvilleseattle.org/nickelsvillefordummies

Well it is much more than a ‘tent city’ as some would call it.  On the contrary it is a vision… a vision to make a better living for many who have no place to go and can’t afford housing in the area.  the idea started because of the 15% increase in the number of homeless people in Seattle, along side of the mayor making it illegal to sleep out in public and coming through and sweeping homeless camps out of the city.  There are not enough beds for all the homeless, and there is no affordable housing, so the homeless have no place to go and the vicious cycle that they find themselves in, when trying to sleep in shelters, keeps them from ever moving forward… it perpetuates their dilemma.  

Think of how difficult it would be to hold a steady job with a steady income, when your living situation changes regularly, or when you have to struggle to find food or water, or find a bed or shower.  Even the tent-cities, which give them a little more stability, have to move very 2-3 months and so keeps them from establishing any real consistency where they can start to get a footing and make a change in their situations.  And the mayor is not exactly excited about tent-cities either, it’s just that there is not really anything he can do about them.

There is a great ‘speech’ on the matter of homelessness in the city and the need for Nickelsville here!

Also check this out for more info on why Nickelsville should happen!

So Nickelsville is now at its fourth location, after being chased from it’s prior three in the last four weeks by the city.  It is currently in a parking lot in the University District of UW, owned by Universtiy Christian church.  They hope to stay there until the first of the year.  Since being there, the church has been threatened with fines for allowing them to stay yet they have ignored the cities threats.  It is still uncertain how long they will be able to stay there and may have to move again soon.  

 

I have had numerous opportunities to hang out with my friends in Nickelsville, sharing my music and my words with them and have been quite moved by their sense of community, love for each other, and how organized they are and such a diverse group of people.  They have one over-arching commonality… they have no home.  No one understands what they go through like themselves.  The mayor doesn’t know, I don’t know, most of you who may be reading this don’t know.  What amazes me is that those who are completely outside of their situation are the ones judging their situation and making rules against their situation without ever experiencing or participating in their situation.  

I am humbled when I am with them.  My experiences with them has made me ever aware of how much I have prioritized the want in my life for things which have no significance.  I have pursued the ‘finer things in life’ and completely taken for granted my warm home, my warm bed and blankets, my hot food, my cold water… all at my disposal… while my brothers and sisters go hungry, thirsty, cold and bed-less on the streets.  Yet we are the ones who think we can judge them and their situation… we are the ones who think we have all the answers to their problems.  

So I stand up for Nickelsville, because I see the grand vision… to build a safe, self-sustaining community where people in need can live without fear, and begin to build a life for themselves, with the help of a community of others who want to do the same help others do the same as well.  

I stand up for Nickelsville because I know their names and their stories.  They are my friends… they care for me and I for them.  They have welcomed me with open arms into their community.  I have shared my music with them, and they have shared their lives with me and I am changed because of it

I stand up for Nickelsville because I am awed by the sense of love and community that many others only dream of.  Sure they have problems, sure they have issues… who doesn’t?  We just have so much stuff to cover up our issues and our problems… they don’t have that… they are laid bare, on display for the world to see, and so we judge them because of it.  

Yet, we ourselves are just like them… we have the same basic human needs.  Will you stand with me to support Nickelsville?  Please join the support Nickelsville group and cause on Facebook!

http://www.nickelsvilleseattle.org

the story of nickelsville (prologue)

i have been wanting to blog about the story of Nickelsville, a homeless community in Seattle that has decided to take matters into their own hands to correct their situations.  I have been involved a little during the process and my good friend Dustin has become one of their biggest, non-homeless advocates, spending most of his days with them, even to the point of being arrested with a group of them.  so, i will write soon about the story… the events that have taken place over the last week or so and some of my thoughts on the situation and how we are involved in helping them out!  stay tuned for that blog coming soon!  In the meantime, here is a synopsis of what Nickelsville is all about!

 

WHAT IS NICKELSVILLE?

Nickelsville is a permanent homeless shantytown in Seattle WA which will accommodate up to 1,000 people. Nickolodeons (Nickelsville’s residents) will live in permanent structures (not tents) and will not have to move every few months. Emphasis will be on safe and sanitary conditions.

WHY NICKELSVILLE?

This year’s one night count showed an increase of 15% in the number of homeless people sleeping outside. Sleeping outside is dangerous; unfortunately there are not enough indoor shelters. There is safety in numbers, there is power in being organized.

WHY THE NAME NICKELSVILLE?

Mayor Nickels’s edict to systematically drive people out of their encampments and to destroy their property was the trigger for the present crisis. It is only befitting that our shantytown be named in honor of Mayor Nickels and his “humane” treatment of the homeless.

WHO?

Anyone who is homeless, willing to take charge of their living conditions, participate in a community and follow some basic rules is welcome to Nickelsville,

WHAT STANDARDS?

Houseless people are neither better nor worst than housed people. Resident of Nickelsville will be held to the same standards as those of any civilized neighborhood. Nothing more, nothing less