Camp Dearborn Eviction (Photo: Alex Garland)

A Homeless Community Scatters as Camp Dearborn Swept

by Alex Garland  (Originally published on The Dignity Virus)

At approximately 8am this morning, the Seattle Police Department began evictions and removal of personal property from the Dearborn encampment. Residents were given 30 minutes to pack their belongings, though city officials claimed police had given inhabitants warnings all week. The claim was contradicted by many on site as they gathered their personal items. 

The homeless encampment, operated by Nickelsville, was previously approved by the city, but lost that status after residents ousted Scott Morrow from his leadership position over the camp.

Morrow, who is an influential Nickelsville staff member, has previously faced accusations from unhappy camp residents. That path that lead to the dismantling of Camp Dearborn and the eviction of its residents is nuanced and complicated.

Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) said residents were “being offered a place to say” in three other city sanctioned encampments if they were willing to follow the rules set up by SHARE and Nickelsville.

The three city sanctioned encampments offered are the recently established Othello Village in South Seattle, Interbay, and Ballard.

In one case, 12 bus tickets (equivalent to 6 days of transportation) were provided to a resident who worked nearby. Those with addictions however, have few options, one being the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which some homeless advocates argue is not much of an option.

After the sweep and clean-up began, Sharon Lee emailed photos of found needles and mentioned in an email that “16 people were here. 8 people agreed to move to Othello Village and abide by Nickelsville’s code of conduct – including a mother and son who arrived 3 days ago.”

When asked about the needles being used for drugs or possibly diabetic injections, Lee replied “Needles were found in lots of different locations. This is drug use. One couple we moved both are totally high. Hard liquor bottles everywhere too. Drug paraphernalia in tents and sheds”.

Additional coverage of this morning’s sweep can be found here.

Featured Image of Camp Dearborn by Alex Garland

4 thoughts on “A Homeless Community Scatters as Camp Dearborn Swept”

  1. Here’s some helpful background on this episode. As I was able to show, the City has been paying for services at Nickelsville Dearborn for most of the time it was there. And yet, when the campers rise up and throw out the hated camp boss and his cronies say: You have to get out because we’ve been paying the bills.
    No, actually, they HAVEN’T been paying the bills. The City has. And yet, for some reason, the City refuses to investigate conditions at the camp or the way the boss runs things there. Meanwhile, they let the boss open up new franchises all over the city.

  2. Camp Dearborn is safely settled in to a new temporary site, after having been swept on Friday 3/11. The circumstances surrounding the sweep were heartbreaking. The camp had been evicted from the Dearborn site on 2/20 but had not yet found a new site. Both I and the camp leadership had been talking to the SPD about the situation, and SPD officers had told us that they would give us notice before the sweep. We knew that the encampment was unauthorized, but the residents did not have a safe and authorized place to relocate to. Our efforts at locating a new site were being hampered by malicious and untrue gossip about the camp. We also continued our efforts to locate alternative solutions for individual camp members that would work for them, and advised the camp members that those who would feel safe and supported there should go to the newly opening Camp Othello.

    On Thursday 3/10 we were told that the sweep would be Monday, 3/14. We reserved a U-Haul truck for Saturday 3/12, lined up volunteers to help vacate the site, and began packing. On Friday morning, I received a call on from a camp leader saying the sweep was happening. 16 camp members were on site; additional community members were off site, some at work. Campers grabbed what they could but the eviction process ended up being unnecessarily chaotic and cruel, with a much more suffering and waste than it would have been if we had been given noticed and allowed to pack and move on Saturday. I was at my rent paying day job during the sweep and unable to be there.

    We are in the process of replacing survival resources that were confiscated and thrown away during the sweep. Currently we need tarps, clothing, hygiene supplies, food, and camping gear.

    The camp is currently being hosted by a local community group on private property. Our plan is to stay there temporarily while we continue our search for a permanent site. If your community group or religious group can offer us temporary sanctuary for a few days or weeks while we continue that process, please let us know. Also, we need volunteers to help us scout for a new site. We are hoping to rent a vacant lot of about 5,000 square feet where we can stay for at least 3 months; 12 would be better. The lot needs to have good drainage and be near a bus line.

    Our current camp policy is that no illegal activity is allowed in camp and everyone commits to working together to treat each other like human beings, with the respect and kindness each person deserves. We are emphasizing safety, civility, health, wellness, compassion, and neighborliness. I am praying that we can secure everyone’s immediate survival needs quickly so that we can turn our full attention to meeting long term needs: housing, education, employment, supportive services, counseling, and medical care. Harm reduction supplies are being made available to camp members who need them and we are in the process of updating the camp’s program model to align with best practices and contemporary research for substance abuse treatment and counseling.

    It has been a sad and difficult week but I’m so inspired and uplifted by the heroic efforts of camp members to get through this together, respecting each other and staying in community. Also, we so much appreciate the outpouring of support from the community, and want to thank SAFE, SeaSol, Rising Tide, and Africa Town for their support and for everything they do to promote justice and compassion. If you want to support Camp Dearborn, you can donate online at Patacara’s website, We also have lots of volunteer opportunities! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work creating a safety net for ALL of our neighbors who are suffering that honors our shared values and makes our city a beacon of compassion in the world.

    Best wishes,

    Polly Trout, Executive Director
    Patacara Community Services