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Originally published October 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 3, 2008 at 6:20 PM

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Homeless camp to move again

The Nickelsville renegade homeless encampment's stay in Discovery Park will be short-lived. Residents of the city of fuchsia tents have...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Nickelsville renegade homeless encampment's stay in Discovery Park will be short-lived.

Residents of the city of fuchsia tents have, again, set up housekeeping on city of Seattle land.

They have until Sunday night to leave the field near the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, where they moved Wednesday night, said Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for Seattle Parks and Recreation. Camping in city-owned parks is illegal, she said.

City crews posted 72-hour notices Thursday evening at the encampment's new location, on land leased by the city to the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Potter said.

"I think there was a misunderstanding," said Marty Bluewater, the foundation's executive director. "The [homeless] group thought the land we occupied for our center might be federal land or land we actually own. When there had been talk in the wind about moving out there, we weren't able to give any permission, as much as we'd like to help."

About 75 homeless people and advocates moved to the Discovery Park location Wednesday night, estimated Aaron Colyer, a resident who helped coordinate the move. It was the group's second forced relocation.

The group illegally set up 150 pink tents Sept. 22 on a grassy patch of city-owned land near West Marginal Way Southwest and Highland Park Way Southwest. They called the encampment "Nickelsville," a jab at Mayor Greg Nickels, who signed an executive order this April allowing homeless encampments to be cleared as long as residents receive 72 hours warning.

The mayor's office, which did not return calls Thursday, has pointed to shelter beds and the recent passage of a plan to provide town houses for homeless families and seniors at the Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center, adjacent to Discovery Park.

Authorized tent city

Seattle already has a legally recognized homeless encampment — a tent city, now located at Haller Lake United Methodist Church, organized by the Seattle Housing And Resource Effort and the Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League. The camp sleeps about 100 people per night and is open to new residents.

The agreement between the organizers and the city attorney's office requires the traveling encampment to be on private land with the owner's permission — Nickelsville meets neither condition.

At its first location, near West Marginal Way Southwest and Highland Park Way Southwest, the encampment faced a sweep by Seattle police last Friday. Twenty-two people were arrested for illegally camping on public property, jailed for a short time and given Metro bus passes on release.

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The encampment moved to an adjacent parking lot on state-owned land and struck an agreement with Gov. Christine Gregoire allowing the residents to stay for five days.

When time ran out Wednesday night, volunteers drove the campers to a "secret location," said Colyer, who said only a handful of leaders knew the mystery spot before the move.

In Discovery Park Wednesday night, excited rumors that the land was tribally owned and the new encampment could remain there traveled among the homeless people as they unloaded a truck full of belongings and set up tents.

The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation was not unfriendly to the encampment; security from the Daybreak Star Discovery Center turned on lights for Nickelsville during the relocation and met with representatives from the tent city this morning, Bluewater said.

"Our response at this point is to see how much we can support them and their needs," Bluewater said. "We let them know that we aren't in the position to give that permission. ... We're obviously kind of caught in the middle here. We want to help where we can, but we have partnerships with the city on a number of things."

Complaints received

The foundation and the city parks department received several complaints Thursday from park patrons and residents neighboring the cultural center. And Elizabeth Campbell, chair of the Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council, called the encampment in Discovery Park an indulgence in "scofflaw antics" on public property.

Campbell said she has no problem with homeless people moving into the neighborhood, but she opposes their use of Discovery Park land. "It has never been about the homeless thing per se," she said. "It is about the legalities. People cannot just go and establish uses wherever and whenever they want."

The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation will abide by city rules and regulations, Bluewater said. In the meantime, he said the foundation will do what it can for their new homeless neighbors, but that long-term solutions must come from elsewhere.

Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or nclark@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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