Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two Homeless Encampments in Seattle

Autumn Netty, Brooke Alford, Hillary Pritchett

The term “homeless encampment” is used to describe a multiplicity of living situations, its scope covering individual encampments, complex community or village encampments, and everything in between. This photo diary includes images from two Seattle encampments on opposite ends of this spectrum – one community encampment, Nickelsville, a South Seattle shantytown assembled on City-owned property and one solitary shelter encampment on the grassy median between I-5 North and NE 45th Street.

Nickelsville currently exists on an historic wetland, now filled with dredge material from the Duwamish River and 'capped' with clean material. Shelters are on pallets and walkways and low areas are being raised with arborist woodchips.  Currently a semi-permanent community awaiting City sanction, some community leaders in Nickelsville aspire to a 10 year vision and accommodations for up to 300 residents.

The solitary encampment we photographed is composed of a single tent and a chair. The tent faces toward the busy freeway--perhaps an attempt at privacy from exiting cars. The three trees nearest the tent serve as a place for drying blankets, bike storage and campsite delineation.

Advantages and challenges accompany both living in solitary camps and in community encampments. While solitary living offers liberty from group rules and group structure, it comes with the increased dangers of physical abuse, theft, and peer pressure. And while living in a larger community means access to a larger supply of resources (food, blankets, tents, tarps, etc) and a relatively extensive support system, the success of the community is dependent upon extensive organizational efforts, and necessitates adherence to a strict list of rules. Nickelsville now takes donations online to pay for utilities such as Honey Bucket rentals and waste disposal.

To learn more about Nickelsville, click here.

View Seattle DIY Urbanism: Encampments in a larger map

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