Community Post

The new Nickelsville: Three camps in the Central District


Campers have been fueling fires with scrap wood given to them by a construction crew across the street. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

As the rain returned to Seattle Wednesday evening, four people huddled around a small campfire in a lot behind the Arco AM/PM gas station at 23rd and Cherry. Surrounded by 28 tents set on top of homemade platforms built from old pallets, the 32 residents of the Cherry St homeless camp prepared for another night in their new Central District home.

The camp is the third and most recent community to move into the CD following the exodus of the longtime Nickelsville encampment on Marginal Way in Delridge. The camp follows two other Nickelsville communities that moved into the Central District in September. A camp at 22nd and Union has around 25 residents and the camp at 20th and Jackson has around 20, according to Nickelsville staff person Scott Morrow.

The Cherry camp, which had been located in Skyway, moved December 2nd onto a empty lot owned by the Cherry Hill Baptist Church. Despite the significant time and energy spent to construct the encampment, the group currently is only authorized to stay through February. Jamie McDaniels, who moved from the Skyway camp to the new Cherry location, said he and fellow residents were relieved to find the space but they’re already worried about having to move in three months.

“Could you imagine having to move everything you own every ninety days?” he said. “Logistically it’s a nightmare.”


The tent city abuts a private home on 22nd St. Campers said neighbors have been very accommodating. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

McDaniel’s said the group is eyeing a longer-term space at 15th and Spring. The camp, like the two other Nickelsville communities, has three portable toilets and a large dumpster. A guard shack, occupied 24 hours a day, sits in front of the camp’s chain-link fence entrance on 22nd. Campers constructed a large protected kitchen area and common space for a campfire.

Residents must abide by a code of conduct, which includes a ban on alcohol and drugs, weapons, and abusive behavior. The campsite is nearly packed, but McDaniel’s said they’re permitted to house 75 residents.

Among the three CD Nickelsville camps,  Cherry is the largest. Morrow told CHS that Union and Jackson will likely stay in their current locations through September 2014. Camps must be sponsored by churches according to city ordinance. The Union camp, which is restricted to families, is sponsored by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is sponsoring the camp on Jackson.

Nickelsville community members say they fund their operations through a mix of church support, government assistance, and neighborhood volunteers.

Earlier this year the City of Seattle announced it would be evicting the Nickelsville community from their longtime Marginal Way encampment. In June, the City Council approved a $500,000 contract with the Union Gospel Mission to help “transition” campers off of the city-owned lot. After the previous moves went down over the summer, residents at Cherry St told CHS they have yet to receive any assistance from UGM.

In an email to CHS, a UGM spokesperson said “The one misconception that is out there is that the Mission received a $500,000 check. That is not the case. As expenses occurs, rents for apts., furniture, etc., we request reimbursement of fund from the City of Seattle.”

One CDNews reader and Jackson camp neighbor said she and another neighbor brought wood to camp residents when temperatures dropped last week, but they were overwhelmed with the number of people when they arrived. “I don’t even know what to do … there are people living outside at the end of my street,” she said.

For more about the camps and how to get involved, check out the Nickelsville Works Facebook page.

8 thoughts on “The new Nickelsville: Three camps in the Central District

  1. There is mention made of the group eyeing a potential long-term site at 15th & Spring. That seems unlikely, given that the only open ground there is Spring Street Mini Park, which has a play structure, notoriously soggy ground, and a slope.
    Could the group be looking at the church site on 14th & Spring?

    Anne Jacobs

  2. good idea to bring them some wood those pallets they generally burn are treated with bromomethane/methyl bromide .some pretty ugly stuff not legal to use at all in many countries

    • I’m sure the camps would welcome your generous donation of cord wood. Please consider donating.

  3. just like they welcomed the donations of bikes and strollers they were running around the neighborhood trying to sell

  4. as far as i know the ugm funding was not supposed to be an on going thing..but rather to help people get out of there before the marginal way eviction..and quite a few people did… many people didnt bother to apply..and more people moved in as soon as people left sounds like a lot of money but we are speaking about hundreds of folks in and out of there over the course of months …rents were subsidized free for 4 months then $100 a month then $450 and after 1 year it would go to market rate they also are doing some case management which is needed

  5. it bit more on methyl bromide burning does not get rid and .any one living down wind will have lung inflammation it will seem like a cold coughing eye irritation..but you will end up with opportunistic viruses and bacterial infection due to weakened condition of the lungs..scott morrow who controls the purse strings for nickelsvilles can well afford propane or real fire wood ..hell they could even chop some themself they have been donated a van and a number of chain saws that i have seen

  6. Methyl Bromide degrade and dissipates to nothing. It is not a health concern vs keeping warm and happy.
    Is there any negative impact at all by these camps? I figured not much impact but am surprised by how little.

  7. thanks for info i got pnumonia and two brands of the flu from being warm and happy last year next to that fire …please inform the other countrys they should make it legal again..tell your buddy scott morrow i said hello