Resident Cecilia Carey objected to the clearing of the former Nickelsville homeless encampent on South Dearborn Street by police and city officials on the morning of Friday, March 11. 
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Resident Cecilia Carey objected to the clearing of the former Nickelsville homeless encampent on South Dearborn Street by police and city officials on the morning of Friday, March 11.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Homeless Residents Booted From Nickelsville Camp In Seattle

Seattle police cleared out a homeless camp known as Nickelsville Friday. It’s been temporarily located on South Dearborn Street, near the freeway, since 2014.

Ronald Hawthorne was one of the first to see police arrive and alerted other campers.

“I told them look, the police are all here. There’s a lot of them and they say we only got 30 minutes to get out,” Hawthorne said.

He said the eviction was mostly peaceful. The 16 remaining residents there knew it was coming. The deadline for residents to leave was three weeks ago.

After some recent conflict, residents ousted the on-site management. They lost their church sponsor. And the property owner said enough.

Resident Cecilia Carey did not go quietly. “There are decent men and women living here -- people in pain, mental health issues, people who are working who can’t afford rent. I am one of those people,” she said. “This has got to stop.”

City officials say camp conditions had become unacceptable, with no on-site security or maintenance for porta-potties. Social service workers that visited the site also reportedly saw drug use and weapons – a violation of camp rules.

Nickelsville will recover some of the houses and other structures to use at its new homeless camp near the Othello light rail station, which opened Tuesday.

The property will go back to its owner.

Stephan McKnight gathered his belongings on the sidewalk. “I’m just carrying my clothes, necessities, a stove. I don’t have a tent,” he said.

McKnight said he was planning to go down underneath the viaduct, by the stadiums.

City officials say all the campers left voluntarily. Half went to a new encampment south of here. Two went to other shelters. But six struck out on their own, like McKnight.

It made him emotional to think about it.

“People get killed. I’ve been on the streets. I’ve seen people shot dead right in front of my eyes. I’ve seen children shooting up freaking heroin” he said.

Those are the issues he said the city should work on.

For now, it’s about survival now, he said. And he thinks somehow he’ll be OK.