Call for mediation between Nickelsville, LIHI and Seattle HSD

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Dear Nickelsville, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), and Seattle Human Services Department;

We are writing to request a mediated solution to the disagreements in the operations of Seattle’s Othello, Georgetown, and Northlake tiny house villages.

We have respect and admiration for the dedication LIHI and Nickelsville have demonstrated for years in serving the needs of community members who are homeless, or who rely on the support of your organizations to become or remain housed. The current conflict between the providers is deeply unfortunate. It only empowers the conservative forces looking to scapegoat and malign homeless individuals and organizations, and the City’s political establishment that has failed to address the homelessness crisis and that continues to underfund affordable housing and social services.

Nickelsville has been very effective in advocating for the rights of homeless community members in Seattle for over a decade. You have fearlessly called out the inaction of Seattle’s political establishment, naming your encampment after Mayor Nickels to draw attention to his abdication of responsibility.

Nickelsville blazed the trail in Seattle of self-managed, democratically-run homeless encampment providing a place where homeless people in Seattle can come together to care for each other and pool your talents to coordinate cooking cleaning and security. Most importantly, Nickelsville encampments are places where homeless people are not infantilized, and are instead empowered to run your own communities.

Nickelsville residents have also been an important part of the grass roots movements in Seattle fighting for the interests of all working people, not just homeless rights. Most recently, you were active in the movement to tax Amazon and other big businesses to build affordable housing.

Similarly, LIHI has demonstrated a steadfast and unwavering commitment to affordable housing and homeless services. With 2200 affordable LIHI homes in the region, plus tiny house villages, you are a leader among non-profit affordable housing providers.

LIHI has also been willing to embrace creative harm-reduction measures to provide safe and secure spaces for homeless people. When the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department leadership (which reports to the Mayor) refused to contract with Nickelsville to operate sanctioned encampments, you agreed to be the intermediary. You have also blazed a trail in building tiny houses, transforming sanctioned encampments into sanctioned tiny house villages, where residents can sleep with human dignity. Tiny houses provide the security of a sturdy wood construction with a door that locks, insulation, and electricity. They are a place where people living on the streets can go to get some stability in their lives while they work to find affordable housing.

Given the years of collaboration and positive work by both LIHI and Nickelsville, we can only assume that conflicts over the management of the Othello, Georgetown, and Northlake tiny house villages have been precipitated by pressure from Seattle’s political establishment. As homeless advocates, we must all stand against this fracturing of the movement.

We urge that all the parties involved in this conflict - Nickelsville, LIHI, and the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department - agree to meet together with a trusted neutral mediator to find a solution to these conflicts that respects the democratic and human rights of the encampment residents, and facilitates all organizations to focus on continuing the good work you have done for years.

We are happy to recommend a mediator if you agree to this approach. You are all indispensable in the struggle for affordable housing, and the human rights of homeless people in Seattle. Thank you for everything you do, and we look forward to seeing this conflict resolved equitably and amicably.