Land Use Action - Nickelsville is FOR THE PEOPLE!

Lola Bean - Posted on 29 March 2011

Erich Duplessis - PNN Washington Correspondent

Before moving up to WA. State, sunday mornings meant either playing drums in church or going to the Ashby flea market in Berkeley,CA.Both of these gatherings had similarities, music ,food ,people,and a tremendous sense of community that pulls you in.On the Sunday we were to visit Nickelsville,a self sustained village of homeless folk,allowed by the city of Seattle to temporarily reside on the grounds of a church,I awoke at sunrise ,the faint glimpse of sunlight peeking through the blinds,welcoming my weary eyes to the day ahead.Something amazing must be happening today,I thought to myself,considering I had not woke up this early on a Sunday,on my own since moving from the Bay Area.

Rain slapped against the window,yet I was still enthusiastic about heading out to visit the people living in Nicklesville.As soon as we reached Seattle,the rain stopped and I was surprised too see that this village in a city was located inside of the U of W district.Moving out here a year ago it was not the warmest experience and that coldness always reflected off of my staust as being poor and non-white.As we approached the site,this stuck in my mind ,especially when the majority of the homeless population is made up of poor and non white folks.We got to the entrance and were asked to sign in at a small post at a small post that resembled an outdoor office.

The staff that greeted us were quick to let us know they were part of the collective and not social workers or homeless advocates with homes,who came to supervise.We made our way to the common living area,passing rows of neatly arranged tents,each set up on a wooden pallet,that seemed like they could withstand the the worst seasons Seattle has to offer.The common area doubled as kitchen and a eating space,with tables of stored food and utensils alongside a row of BBQ pits.Sitting amongst this was a young woman who smiled as she noticed us and said hello,perfect an opportunity to talk to someone.My teacher from CJW,Gioioa asked her if she was willing to do an interview with us.Yes,she replied ,introducing herself as Erin Miller. Unashamed with an energy that gave me a feeling that she was joyful despite the hard times she was going through,there was a place for her.She spoke of having the time to find her passion for filmmaking and working on a documentary about homelessness.

This took me back to 15 years ago when I was alone on the streets and found the comfort of creativity,and it’s salvation as I struggled to stay awake during the long dark hours of early morning inside the 24 hour doughnut shop.It was here I would sit filling page after page of notebook paper,so I could keep warm as I waited on sunrise.A maple old fashioned and a jelly ,a cup of hot coffee,enough to make me look like a customer and not someone seeking refuge from the cold Oakland November wind,even though that was exactly me.Yet the details of preparing over 60 dozen fresh sugar and flour treats probably kept the busy workers behind the counter unaware of their sleepover stowaway.I would eventually become a regular that winter,collecting pens and notebooks during the day and hanging out at the doughnut shop after midnight.This became my rite of passage into expressing myself with the written word and a lot of ideas I came up with in that period,I am still developing currently so it definitely shaped who I am as a artist.Erin Miller spoke of people having super powers and I knew firsthand what she was talking about.Trying to live with nothing much but the clothes on your back and maybe a bag on your back can bring out the best in you if you can connect with that emotion.

Everyday,millions of people in this country suffer from Amerikkka’s debilitating ling disease,homelessness,according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.Almost half of that population have nowhere even to temporarly find shelter for one night.My experiences in CA and what we encountered at Nicklesville and elsewhere in Seattle WA recently,echo,that this vicious condition has not been realistically addressed as time goes forward and folks get colder living on the streets.How can a city as rich and affluent not have the resources to provide a living space for each homeless citizen,yet for the longest they have funded a mission with a promise to create decent affordable housing and end homelessness as the population of those without appropriate shelter grows and grows.The plans King County have set are slow and exclusive,only responding to a low amount of the impoverished community with services that target certain criteria that economically challenged folk simply can’t meet.The most immediate help King County can provide in an emergency situation to homeless or at risk homeless is a search website with links to resources as if every person living on the streets in Seattle has wi-fi built in their brains to browse the web all day.So the inhabitants of Nicklesville are luckier,than most,despite having to move at least 4 times in the last 2 years.

Upon returning to catch up with Erin Miller and see their new location,after the permit expired in Nov.2010 at the church parking lot,at the fire station in the Lake City we were invited into a hopeful gathering ,who were still waiting on a permanent location at an old peanut butter factory across town.The enviorment was bustling with activity,families sat out ,tables lined up in rows and bright light filled up the noisy hall.The smell of cooking rose from the center of the kitchen.Down a corridor a familiar face pops out of a small room,pushing a wheeled bucket and mop,stern faced,looking exhausted,it’s our old friend.Erin Miller has evolved further in her artistic pursuit,finishing her film,and on the eve of premeiring it on cable TV,she has just tackled her weekly chores,yet is confident as she speaks volumes,proudly of her upcoming debut,proving that with just enough space,shortcomings,could be squeezed into a flavorful blessing,of a lemonade to quench the thirst of lonely souls.


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