Push is quickly coming to shove for the homeless campers of Nickelsville, the tent city named for Seattle's mayor and his homeless sweeps. On the evening of July 24, just 24 hours after the group moved from state land to a park owned by the Port of Seattle, port police showed up and handed out three-day Notices to Vacate that have already expired.
In a news release issued the same day, the port says that it will take until later this week to file court papers and evict the encampment from the Terminal 107 Park located along the Duwamish River. It's doing so, says port spokesperson Peter McGraw, because the port is not allowed to give away public property.
That's the finding of a 2005 Washington state audit stating that ports don't have the authority to provide services such as education, health and housing, according to the port's July 24 news release. "We got slapped pretty hard a couple years ago with [that] audit," McGraw says. Allowing Nickelsville to stay would amount to "gifting public assets," he says, which is "very illegal and we have to put a stop to it."
In a statement sent out Sunday, the Nickelodeons shot back that the port is out of touch and its argument illogical. If the port were prohibited from providing land for public use, the group contends, it would have to close all its parks. The port has also allowed shelter space on its property in the past, the Nickelodeons say.
The camp has moved seven times since it first sprang up last September at its original South Seattle site on West Marginal Way Southwest, from which the mayor evicted the group last October. "Mayor Nickels has got to understand how things are going and turn things around so he's for the homeless, not against the homeless," says Richard Gilbert, a 49-year-old unemployed warehouseman who's been with Nickelsville since the beginning.
If the mayor looked at it as an opportunity to help homeless people instead of chasing them around, Gilbert says, Nickelsville "could be an honor to him instead of disgrace."