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Dubious honor for Seattle mayor: Tent city claims his name

As if Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson didn't feel enough pressure to house the homeless, have a look south to Seattle. There, homeless people inhabit a tent city they've named for the city's mayor, Greg Nickels. Nickelsville so far is home to more than 100 pink tents. In an interview reprinted on, one of the encampment's denizens, Bruce Beavers, told radio host Amy Goodman:

"We named it Nickelsville, after the mayor, because...he's actually single-handedly trying to drive homeless out of Seattle...Well, he [tries] continuously to disrupt Nickelsville. He has thrown us off a piece of property that we actually found that would have been just perfect for Nickelsville to actually build their houses and sustain a nice place to live. He actually drove us off. He arrested twenty-five people."

Homeless activist Anitra Freeman told Goodman the shelters in Seattle "have been inadequate for years. There's never been enough shelter for everybody. There are thousands of people outside, people camping. And instead of helping the people who are trying to survive outside, Nickels single-handedly started a program of harassing them, of chasing people out of encampments and actually destroying their camping gear. And he set up one showcase shelter for fifty people that costs...half-a-million dollars a year." Freeman said a "network of self-managed shelters" organized by the homeless themselves "can shelter 500 people a night for the same amount of money."

People who live in Nickelsville call themselves Nickelodians. Which raises a question. Vancouver has seen tent encampments of homeless people before. If one sprouts again, might inhabitants call it Gregorville? And themselves Gregorians?

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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