Eugene Cho

nickelsville and the homeless: the complexity of an issue and the simplicity of human dignity

Update:  On Wednesday, October 8, eight homeless men and two others representing Nickelsville met with one of our pastors and inquired about using our church parking for their “home” for the next couple months.  They needed to find a new home by Noon, October 10. Logistically, months would have been difficult but the Elder Board had a good conversation and was open to welcoming them to Quest for several weeks but the day before they had to “relocate,” a church in the University District with a much larger parking space opened the doors for them for the duration of the year.  Certainly an answer to prayer for them and another reminder to us how we can “be the church” in the coming years.

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The “homeless” is a broad word.  I don’t want to pretend I am an expert but in the 8+ years at Quest and Q Cafe, we have met and heard from hundreds and hundreds of the homeless community which gave birth to the church’s To The Streets ministry which is still going strong.  In short, homelessness is indeed very complex but like many issues, we tend to forget that there are people – human beings – beneath the issues.  Like you, they go hungry, cold, lonely, afraid…and there are some who genuinely want to get off the streets.  Beyond just compassion, they need dignity and advocates…

This past Sunday, I had a friend – Dustin Cross – join us at Quest and share his brief story in working with an intense hot political civic issue with the homeless community known by many in Seattle as Nickelsville. His commitment and advocacy for the homeless led him [and numerous others] to jail last week.   

 What is Nickelsville?

Nickelsville is a permanent homeless shantytown in Seattle which will accomodate up to 1,000 people.  Nickolodeons [its 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.

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 organzed.

Here’s what Dustin shared on Sunday.  His contact info along with ways you can help are listed below.  They especially need legal help for those who are able.

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This week the mayor ignored the request of 13 local congressmen as well as the city council and destroyed the homes of 143 people. You probably didn’t hear that much about it because these people were homeless.
Most there at Nickelsville have been homeless less than a year, many less than one month.

One family who was recently homeless was asked, “Do you want to stay here”?  The husband George replied:

“Of course I don’t want to stay here. Do you want to live in a tent? Would you want to have to keep your family in a tent? I hate it, I can’t buy my wife the things she deserves. There is no other choice. For us to go to a shelter means I have to go one shelter and my wife has to go to a different shelter blocks or miles away . I have to leave my wife on streets if I want her to have a bed. I can’t watch after her, I can’t protect her. Here at Nickelsville is the first time in months that I’ve even been able to sleep next to my wife. It’s the first time I’ve been able to be with my wife in months.”

We built 15 homes and had 150 tents. All the homes and 80 tents have been demolished by the city. Many came up to me and said,

“Dustin, I’ve never owned a home before, this is my first home. I built it with my own hands. Why do they want to come and destroy my home?”

That Friday night, after the city arrested us and bulldozed the area, there was still not enough shelter. Rev. Rick Reynolds of Operation Nightwatch which dispatches homeless to shelters around the city said that “there still wasn’t enough beds in Seattle for the people seeking shelter.”

After the mayor deemed Nickelsville “unnecessary” and promised that “no one who wanted shelter would go without it”, Operation Nightwatch turned 20 away that same night b/c all local shelters were full and ended up having to send them back to Nickelsville to join the over 100 who were already there.

The hardest thing has been leaving. Every time I leave I am surrounded by people calling out,

“Dustin, we’ll never forget you, please don’t forget us. Please come back. Please share our story. Tell the churches to please help. Can you come start a church service here?”

There are still well over 100 staying at the shelter. We need food and water, but our two main needs are for people to please contact Gov. Gregoire’s office 360-902-4111 to voice support. The other need is simple. We need blankets. We need them badly. Many are sleeping outside on the pavement with nothing.  For those who want more information, you can contact us at http://nickelsvilleseattle.org or contact me directly.

Dustin Cross
318-349-6535
bro_cross@yahoo.com

Filed under: religion, ,

6 Responses

  1. Bret says:

    Curious to know what has worked in getting other churches involved.

    We feed the needy every Sunday afternoon and provide clothing, hygiene products, etc. We are upto 140 meals a day and pushing our financial and logistical limits.

    We havent been to successful with getting other congregations involved.

  2. Bret,

    Apparently Mayor Nickels is working hard to get other churches involved too. A Notice of Violation of Land Use has been posted in Nickelsville. This is seperate from the Notice to Vacate that has been pushed back until Wednesday as has been widely reported.

    The Notice of Violation of Land Use threatens to fine the occupants of Nickelsville $150.00 a day for every day Nickelsville exists starting today. Amazingly, that notice names several other groups and individuals and threatens them with fines. This includes the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness and David Bloom who currently heads this group.

    It also names the following –

    ROOTS and the current head of ROOTS, Sinan Demirel. ROOTS serves homeless youth.

    SHARE/WHEEL (based on 3 locations, including one in Vancouver, WA)

    Veterans for Peace Chapter 92,

    and the following individuals:

    Diane Christie, Scott Morrow, Bill Kirlin-Hacket, Daniel H. Gilman, Woody Pidcock, , and John and Jane Doe.

    My guess is that naming these groups and well known individuals, the Mayor has essentially invited a whole lot of people to get involved that would have otherwise stayed more on the sidelines.

  3. […] a link to the Citywide Housing Coalition.  Please take a look.  also,  I’d commend to you these thoughts from a pastor in Seattle by the name of Eugene […]

  4. […] becoming homeless.  We haven’t had any folks at Quest…yet…but 10 folks from Nickelsville came by Quest last week and asked to use our parking space for their encampment.  The Elder Board […]

  5. […] and genersosity.  On a recent trip from his doctor, he passed the homeless community called Nickelsville, and his last wish was to help feed the homeless.  It’s an amazing and beautiful story.  On […]

  6. […] and genersosity.  On a recent trip from his doctor, he passed the homeless community called Nickelsville and his last wish was to help feed the homeless.  It’s an amazing and beautiful […]

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Minhee and I met these college boys when we first arrived in Seattle in 1997. They were part of our bible study that we led in our apartment for college students. They were also among the group of 7 people that helped start @seattlequest.

Much has changed in the world...but not their friendship and love. Thank you Jin and George. We love and honor you. These are crazy times in our country and larger world but nevertheless, we're going to keep pursuing the things that God has placed upon our hearts. We're pressing forward...doing our part to reflect mercy, compassion, and justice - locally and globally.

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