OPEN LETTER: Tammy Morales Calls for Mediation Between LIHI and Nickelsville

Tammy Morales sent the following letter to the city of Seattle’s Human Services Department, Nickelsville, and the Low Income Housing Institute. It is reprinted here with permission. A petition calling for mediation between the organizations can be found here.

by Tammy Morales

Dear Nickelsville, Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), and Seattle Human Services Department Leaders,

I have immense admiration for the work that both LIHI and Nickelsville have done for years in serving our underserved homeless neighbors. Nickelsville, you have stood against corporate power in the city that wants to stop spending on human services. You have served the needs of our community members and have shown us that we can have permanent affordable housing.

LIHI has also been a leader in advocating for harm-reduction measures to provide safe and secure spaces for our homeless neighbors. You have also blazed a trail in building tiny houses, transforming sanctioned encampments into sanctioned tiny house villages, where residents can sleep with human dignity.

Given the years of collaboration and positive work by both LIHI and Nickelsville, I assume that conflicts over the management of the Othello, Georgetown, and Northlake tiny house villages can be resolved with further mediation. You were so close to resolution. As homeless advocates, we must all stand together to find the answers that will serve our neighbors best. If we get divided, we will fail, because big moneyed interests are certainly united in their opposition.

I am writing to urge you all to seek a mediated solution to the disagreements in the operations of Seattle’s Othello, Georgetown, and Northlake tiny house villages. I join others who are urging all the parties involved in this conflict — Nickelsville, LIHI, and the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department — to agree to meet together with a trusted neutral mediator to find a solution that respects the democratic and human rights of the encampment residents, and facilitates all organizations to focus on continuing the good work you have done for years.

You are all indispensable leaders in the struggle for affordable housing, and the human rights of homeless people in Seattle. Thank you for everything you do, and I look forward to seeing this conflict resolved equitably and amicably.

A group of homeless advocates has created a petition calling for a return to mediation. If you’re interested in signing, click here.

In solidarity and service,
Tammy Morales
Community member and Human Rights advocate

Featured Image by Alex Garland.

Tammy Morales is running for the Seattle City Council in District 2.

3 thoughts on “OPEN LETTER: Tammy Morales Calls for Mediation Between LIHI and Nickelsville”

  1. Dear Tammy,
    You need to talk to people who will not simply regurgitate the Scott Morrow line. I’ve seen how he operates up close, as former chair and continued active member of the Othello tiny house village advisory committee (CAC). What I saw was not pretty. Yes, at first it seemed to me that the issues between LIHI (Low Income Housing Institute) and Nickelsville (Scott Morrow) should have been “close to resolution”, rather like normal problems of mis-communication.
    So I started thinking hard about what I was seeing, asking “Why is Scott Morrow digging in his heels so hard?” Then I reflected on how at two CAC meetings, I saw the LIHI case managers meekly describe their continued difficulties (unjustified “bars”, or expulsions of residents, and residents told to stay away from the case managers). Meanwhile Scott and his crew (residents who appeared to have been coached by Scott) simply denied in aggressive ways that there were any real problems, that LIHI was to blame. I
    I thought, “Could I have worked with someone who treated me like that, especially if I was not only a colleague but had management oversight responsibilities like LIHI?” Clearly, “NO”. Still I had to ask myself, why was Scott behaving in such an irrational way, almost inviting termination of his contract? I reflected upon past incidents that had disturbed me, such as the public meeting where everyone had supported the tiny house village, except Scott got up at the end and directly insulted the top city staff present, seemingly for no rhyme or reason. In fact, I so disturbed that I later apologized to her for his unacceptable behavior.
    And later, when the city committed to temporary renewals of the village permit after the initial two-year permit expired, it was Scott who made a big stink about it at our CAC meeting. So the city council and major had not yet agreed upon a new ordinance, but what was the thinking? – I would have thanked the city. And why was Scott dragging his feet on appointing new members to the CAC (the others had gotten bored and dropped out)? And why was Scott continuing to deny that he was a subcontractor to LIHI (the city has recently again clarified the subcontractor status, but he still denies it)?
    And then I began to think about one of my specialties (my wife and I have a non-profit called Democracy Works and been activists for both global democracy and participatory democracy). Democracy is not just about “self-governance”, as Scott proclaims. Self-governance without oversight and accountability easily degrades into “tyranny of the majority”, or “corruption”, or all the injustices of factionalism or tribalism instead of the rule of law. That’s why you can normally appeal to a higher authority or court and why we’re in such trouble nationally right now, where a reliable appeals procedure is lacking for certain executive behaviors.
    And this is where I hit pay dirt: The “Memorandum of Understanding” between LIHI and Nickelsville, requested by the city, required an appeals procedure to those “bars” (appeals to a higher authority = LIHI), and that was exactly why Scott was digging in his heels. I understood this better when I learned about allegations that these bars were being used to intimidate residents from talking candidly to outsiders or case managers or to intimidate residents into voting with Scott. I found out that voting was not by secret ballot, an open invitation to such intimidation and a fundamental violation of due process, nor was vigorous debate welcomed. Recent whistle blower reporting by Carolyn Ossorio at KIRO radio verifies such intimidation, as does an interview of a former Nickelsville staffer by Carolyn Bick in the South Seattle Emerald.
    When the Georgetown tiny house village recently voted to kick out Nickelsville, it was after a series of meetings, with open information and secret ballots. Meanwhile Scott Morrow has been living illegally in the kitchen at the Othello village and blocking all such meetings by physically disrupting them. LIHI staff are gradually regaining control, after several almost unspeakable incidents, but he continues to spread misinformation, which is often believed by his followers (he runs a savvy political machine). But I’ve learned to discount everything he or his followers say, unless I see independent evidence.
    This is why I’ve concluded that we need an investigation by an independent authority of the Scott Morrow / Nickelsville / SHARE operations. Meanwhile I’m strongly opposed to any management role for Scott or his associated groups in any city sanctioned operation for the homeless, unless he and his partner Peggy get the professional help they so desperately need to work honestly and productively with others. In other words, “no mediation” – it is based on a misdiagnosis of the problem.

    1. Dick….Please keep speaking up about this. People need to know that there are Progressives who are totally fed up with how SHARE and Nickelsville operate and the $$$ they cost this city.