The deadline for moving residents out of the Northlake Tiny House Village (3814 Ave NE) has slid forward three weeks, from December 31st to December 9th. (For background on the closure, see Northlake Tiny House Village To Close.)
This past week, LIHI posted the following notice on the gates:
The Seattle Human Services Department has notified us that the Northlake Village contract will not be renewed for 2020. To allow time to transition this City of Seattle-owned property back to City Light by December 31, 2019, all the tiny houses and village grounds need to be vacated by December 9, 2019. Unauthorized people who enter or remain on the premises beyond Dember 9, 2019 will be subject to arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code 12A.08.040.
The Low Income Housing Institute is committed to working with you and your household to transition into housing or an alternative and safe shelter option before December 9, 2019.
We acknowledge this is a difficult situation for you. A team of four LIHI case managers…are available to work with you. … These four case managers are committed, talented, and experienced service providers who are dedicated to finding housing and shelter options for you. They will also be available to help you coordinate your move including storage and transportation.
A private office space across the street is available for you to meet with the case managers.
The December 9th date represents a shift from a December 31st deadline that had been suggested at the October 29th Northlake Village Community Advisory Council Meeting. At that meeting, Adrienne Easter, Manager of Homeless Investments for the City of Seattle Human Services Department, had said that the program would close December 31st, and that “all basic needs” would continue through that date:
All of that is in the letter. All utilities, all basic needs, all of that will continue through December 31st. All things such as power, water, hygiene, will stay on.
The amended date is intended to give time for LIHI to remove their tiny houses from the property and otherwise return it to an empty state so that it can be returned to Seattle City Light management on January 1st.
When I spoke with Josh Castle, Director of Advocacy & Community Engagement for LIHI, he was surprised that HSD had suggested that date as the actual move-out date. “They knew all along that if they’re not going to give us an extension into 2020, even a two-week extension, that we would have had all the stuff off the property the 31st. [HSD and LIHI] knew that it would take some time.”
“The City is not funding the village past 2019 and would like the property empty and back to City Light by January 1,” he wrote. “As you can imagine, it’s quite a process to move all of the structures off the site and to deconstruct utilities and we need at least 2 weeks if we’re going to finish this by Dec 31. I realize this could have been made more clear by City staff at the CAC meeting.”
The elephant in the room continues to be, “What will happen on December 10th if there are still villagers in residence?” I asked Josh about this, and he demurred from a direct answer:
“We’d like to have everyone moved out by the ninth. Our four case managers are working with everyone who will interact back with them, and everyone that will engage is in process for some plan. Sometimes that’s moving to housing, sometimes to another village. In one or two cases, they have family and are being reunited with them.
But the person has to be responsive and has to engage back, and that is a problem with some residents. And what Nickelsville may end up doing is moving people in as the houses are vacated. That’s not what we want to have happen. If there are people that weren’t there before, because Nickelsville moved them in, those aren’t people we’re serving…. But the ones that are there now, the plan is to move them out by that date. There are some that may have reasons for delay, lacking proper documentation or other barriers for example… But I’m really hopeful, I know it’s going to be difficult.”
Josh’s non-answer raised a consideration I hadn’t been aware of: is Nickelsville filling vacancies in Northlake in the run-up to the December 9 deadline?
Scott Morrow, staff member of Nickelsville, said that Nickelsville policy is that staff members can’t be quoted in the media, but Alex Finn, a resident of the Northlake Village, responded simply “Well, why wouldn’t we?”
I asked Alex if he thought he would still be living there on December 10th, and he said he didn’t know what else he would do. He believed he was barred from at least one of the other villages, and didn’t trust the LIHI case managers enough to work with them.
So what does HE think would happen on December 10?
“Well, LIHI has said that anyone living here will be charged with criminal trespass,” he replied.
I have to imagine that the three weeks LIHI has set aside between the “everyone out” date and the date HSD has said they want the property clear by is to deal with the holdouts. I hope it doesn’t get ugly.
Spoiler alert: it will get ugly.
Someone could write an encyclopedic tome of cautionary tales entitled: “Seattle Politics.” This would be a great chapter on how warm-sounding ideas such as “Let’s get the homeless folks some cute little houses!” turn into massive wastes of resources and focus-pulling distractions.
Great article, Jordan.
I wouldn’t blame the “let’s get the homeless folks some cute little houses”, necessarily. HSD and LIHI operate other Tiny House Villages that are successful, and the City Council has a proposal in front of it to expand the number of such villages in the city. What’s different in this case is the involvement of Nickelsville.
Since they aren’t attempting to secede from the city and go completely rogue, the other Tiny House Villages may be successful compared to this one.
However, Barbara Poppe shares my belief that they are a distracting and inefficient effort:
Slum is a very common problem for big cities. There are a lot of low level service jobs in big cities, and people with those jobs need housing. Since those people are poor, they can’t afford something nice by themselves. Slums being unattractive prevents gentrification and therefore secure the place for poor people to live. I see how these tiny houses can be considered worse than refuge camps, but they surely are better than tent cities or cars. If we think these are not good enough, where is the solution to provide something better? The article you linked is asking for building permanent apartments in the place of the tiny houses. Who are going to build those and provide them to the tiny house residents?
I would be all for building more tiny apartments all around the city for the homeless, instead of just tiny houses. Is that feasible?
The Keystone Kops aspect of how the city, LIHI and Nickelsville work together is woeful. I’m also concerned by the sense of entitlement that Nickelsville expresses around occupying land that is simply not theirs to occupy. A lot of unhelpful attitudes and processes and…oh yeah…people with no roof over their heads. What a mess.
Horrible. ( c re c)
….aaaaaannnnnd big shocker – the “camp” will stay. the city policies are a joke.