The following is a letter to the Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan from two members of the Community Advisory Council, Othello Nickelsville responding to recent actions taken by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) following a decision from LIHI and the city of Seattle to replace Nickelsville staff members who manage the encampment. The letter was sent on April 9, 2019. The letter is reprinted exactly as submitted.
by Eliana Scott-Thoennes and Jesiah Wurtz
We are members of the Community Advisory Council (CAC) for the Othello Nickelsville Tiny House Village. We were shocked and outraged by yesterday’s aggressive actions by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) at the Othello Village.
On Monday morning, a team of ten to fifteen men with LIHI security vests roughly forced their way into Othello Village. They pushed residents out of their security station and began aggressively occupying and patrolling the village, tearing down any insignia or even informal paraphernalia that signified Nickelsville.
Later in the morning, we were told that residents at Northlake Village remained successfully barricaded, but the news of what had happened at Othello caused much alarm and concern in the residents there.
Just yesterday, seven members of the CACs from Othello and Northlake Villages sent you an open letter asking you to de-escalate this crisis by directing LIHI to reopen negotiations with Nickelsville. But rather than working to de-escalate and the tensions and reassure village residents who are frightened and distressed, LIHI has chosen to sharply escalate the crisis.
These assaults by LIHI are not the pathway to a safe and peaceful resolution. They most certainly do not demonstrate commitment on LIHI’s part to ensuring that residents feel safe, respected, and that their voices are being heard.
Last Thursday, Seattle’s Human Services Division sent two representatives to hear the sentiments and concerns of residents of all three villages. From residents of the villages, those representatives heard many allegations of LIHI staff misconduct, widely-shared fears of retaliation, and the widely-held conviction that LIHI’s proposed new management plan was an evisceration of their self-management process and a silencing of their voices.
Having heard those concerns from residents, the City has a weighty responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of these residents and to carefully evaluate the allegations that have been made. It is irresponsible to allow any City contractor to engage in the alarming tactics we saw from LIHI on Monday. It is especially disturbing given the fears and concerns village residents have raised.
Please exercise your lawful responsibility and authority to curtail the activities of your contractor and to protect the vulnerable residents of these villages from the reckless tactics engaged in by LIHI.
Eliana Scott-Thoennes, Othello Village Community Advisory Council Jesiah Wurtz, Othello Village Community Advisory Council
Featured Image by Alex Garland.
This article was updated to state that this letter was from two members of the CAC, not the CAC as a whole.