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.
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.
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.
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.