OPINION: An Open Letter to the City of Seattle from Othello Nickelsville’s Community Advisory Council

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.

Thank you,

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.

3 thoughts on “OPINION: An Open Letter to the City of Seattle from Othello Nickelsville’s Community Advisory Council”

  1. The letter above represents only two members of the CAC, who believe Scott Morrow despite his crazy behavior. I’ve been a member of the Othello Village CAC for 3 years, and chair through last year. I’m very glad that LIHI finally responded to the Nickelsville takeover and propaganda (they had locked out LIHI and made false accusations concerning food donations). I went to the village this morning and heard first hand about even more of the craziness and dysfunction.

    A prime example of insanity: Scott is still holed up in the kitchen, refusing to leave, despite the termination of the Nickelsville contract (for very good reasons, in my judgement, due to his refusal to accept democratic oversight and accountabilty). So LIHI brings in meals and food for the residents, for which they were very thankful, but Scott tells them not to eat it because LIHI had “poisoned it” (even though Scott himself was eating it). This is only the latest in a series of incidents that have convinced me that Scott has a serious mental illness (I have close relatives who exhibit similar dysfunctional behavior). He needs professional help.

    In addition I learned for the first time that drug usage and drug dealing has been tolerated by Scott and his Nickelsville crew. I saw buckets full of needles and case workers had seen drug dealing on site. There have also been allegations of serious financial irregularities (https://roominate.com/blog/2016/anatomy-of-a-swindle/ ).

    It is very unfortunate that Scott, who had been a co-founder of LIHI, and supported by LIHI leader Sharon Lee, not only “wore out his welcome” but “burned his bridges behind him” by taking out his knives to go after LIHI in the media over the last few months. Because of this “bad blood” and strong liklihood of future problems, I see no point in mediation. Instead I think the city should disqualify any group associated with Scott from having any city-sponsored management role in homelessness unless he receives successful mental treatment. His behavior is discrediting all of us who are dedicated to reversing the crisis of homelessness and inequality in our society.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is not a “problem with Democrats”. In this instance the problem is with a particular individual who is politically savvy and with a good cause, but who is personally dysfunctional. Guess who this brings to mind? That’s right, a certain occupant of the White House.

    More broadly, such people gain power only because our whole society is fracturing due to things like escalating inequality, the slowing of economic growth, and the rising costs of neglecting of our resources, both human and natural. This is leading us toward climate, ecosystem, and resource catastrophe far more quickly than most people are willing to admit.

    So fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be a wild and scary ride, and many will fall by the wayside.


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