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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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HousingHomelessnessFrom Hooverville to Nicklesville

From Hooverville to Nicklesville

A report from Seattle, where housing built and run by homeless people is having an impact.


Land Back

Land Back

Black Land 

Black Land

Houseless humans housed 

Instead of swept like we r trash….

–Excerpt of the Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources UnTour chant thru Occupied Salish Territory

“They didn’t give us this land to use out of the kindness of their hearts, they did it because we fought, we organized and didn’t stop putting pressure on them,” said Peggy, a longtime warrior with Nicklesville, a self-determined poor/houseless people-led comeUnity in Seattle, or occupied Chief Si’ahl as I have respectfully re-named it.

Nicklesville was named after former Seattle Mayor Gregory Nickles, who perpetrated violent sweeps of homeless people.

Gathering in Seattle

As Peggy spoke, I reflected on the impossible struggle of us houseless peoples “fighting” when we already have nothing left in us to fight with, fighting to not be constantly “swept,” removed, cleaned out, gentriFUKEd, evicted and/or hated, like so many of our relatives at Wood Street, Division Street, Blackarthur Blvd, Polk Street and all  across the Bay. 

A “Hooverville” was a group of cardboard homes, tents, lean-tos and shacks created in the 1930’s and referred to as “shantytowns” built by houseless, jobless, poor folks  during the Great Depression They were named after Herbert Hoover, who was president during the onset of the Depression and was widely blamed for it. They were all across the country but many of them were in the occupied Salish territory aka Chief Siahl (Seattle). 

The bright, sharp rays of Tonateu (the Sun) brought a warm glow to a small corner of occupied Salish lands where the Nicklesville comeUnity of tiny homes was located as Peggy spoke to RoofLESS radio/POOR Magazine family visiting/sharing on our recent Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources UnTour.

Homelessness is not accidental or incidental…. 

Its intentional cuz we can’t afford a rental…

Houseless/Formerly houseless residents of Homefulness and Po Poets and Povertyskolaz from POOR Magazine took our tired and often broken but not giving up, spirits and bodies up to share the medicine of Homefulness, where we all finally reside with a safe and rent-free roof and forever home.

“Everytime we got threatened with sweeps or removal, we would relocate, but we always stayed together. At each location we would last several months or a year, and then we would have to move again, each time we lasted a little longer, but our strength was, no matter what, we always stayed together.” Peggy repeated this multiple times. 

The first version of Nickelsville was established on Nov. 24, 1990 with leadership from a powerful organizer named Scott Morrow and houseless relatives from SHARE/WHEEL, Real Change and more.

In response to former Mayor Nickels’ sweeping of homeless encampments across the city, Morrow, along with others involved with SHARE/WHEEL, Real Change and other community members, started setting up distinctive pink tents on unused public land as an act of protest.

“We didn’t call it a tiny house village, from the beginning, we called it Small, Simple, Sturdy, Sleeping Structures,” Peggy added. She told us that over time there were many “corporate non-profits” who have also set up “tiny house villages” where poor and houseless peoples are not leading the movement. “People aren’t safe in those places,” she said. 

In Seattle they have one good thing: If an encampment is set up and there are more than three tents, they can call on the city to bring water and porta potties to the site, which is how Nicklesville has the water and sewer service they currently have.

Peggy explained that for now they are “safe” at Nicklesville and actually are on the brink of opening a second site. “This has been a looong struggle, to get here,” she concluded.

Poor peoples skill share 

“This is the pod that we built—it contains all the energy to power the whole village, roughly 3,000 watts of solar energy.” After we spoke to Peggy, we were introduced to Moises, a young comrade with roots in East Huchuin, who explained the powerful off-grid solar hub he and his partner David O in their company called “Messx” created for the Nicklesville village.

At the end of this powerful teaching by Moises, they offered to help us houseless folks down in occupied Huchuin who are struggling just to figure out what to do to create Homefulness #2 off-grid. Refusing to spend another 11 years struggling to get the permit gangsters of these settler governments to “approve” a homeless peoples solution to homelessness. Losing houseless relatives like Laure McElroy and Kathy Galves, because the city government made it as hard as possible, charging us endless exorbitant fees we absolutely didn’t have, so that poor and houseless builders like us could never build our own solutions. 

All that said, we also have to worry about safety for our families and elders and so we are working so hard to build everything safely and beautifully. Moises and the other founder, David O were life savers. 


False Borders

Eviction and Politricksters Orders 

The Time is now for Homefulness…tiny 

We launched the Untour in Occupied Salish Lands at the site of “Pioneer Square” or what I refer to as a Klanmark, one of thousands of mis-named, occupied and stolen indigenous lands and sacred sites across Turtle Island, where the land-stealers, occupiers, genocidal perpetrators, aka colonizers are lifted up as heroes.  

Pioneer Square is described as the “birthplace of Seattle” in tour guides. Settlers who were called “Bostons” by the native community, laid claim to this area as their “first neighborhood,” the first settlement on this side of the water, thus the beginning of stolen land from the Duwamish and Suquamish people.

In addition to a copper plaque with inglorius blab-lies about the pioneers, there was a beautiful sculpture of Chief Si’ahl, the First Nations elder who was lied to and stolen from by the settlers and their fake treaties into a horror story of genocide.

Sweeping on Stolen Land 

While we were setting up for the opening blessing at that strange space, where we were laying down prayers for the stolen Inuit totems that are centered in the square, three police officers and a city government trash truck swaggered over to a houseless elder who was sitting under the bus shelter in the cold rain trying to stay dry and began a full on sweep. 

“What are you doing?” asked the badass organizers and cop-watchers from Real Change and Stop the Sweeps Seattle who sponsored us to come to these lands, pulling phones out, filming, and getting in the cops’ faces lickety split. At this point they started to put the yellow tape up to keep us out of the bus shelter area, but like any good cop-watchers that didn’t deter us. Within seconds they changed their so-called goals into: We are just here to pick up trash, not sweep her. 

Black, Brown, Gold, Beige or White

Is just pigmentation in the skin

What matters is the strength and goodness

Of the person that resides within…

excerpt of a poem created in POOR Magazine’s Po Poets Project Workshop by an anonymous resident of the SHARE/WHEEL shelter 

From this first brutal and beautiful day, we didn’t rest, moving from one reading to workshop to prayer to walk. After the opening blessing we led a powerful RoofLess Radio workshop at Real Change Newspaper with the houseless poverty skola reporters and vendors from that amazing newspaper (stay tuned for all of their voices writing published on POOR Magazine and broadcast on Po Peoples Radio Newz Hour), then onto a reading by all of Po Poets from our books at Left Bank Books with a showing of the movie by Peter Menchini based on my children’s book When Mama and Me Lived Outside to the blessing of Nicklesville and a Po Poets Poetry Workshop to the amazing SHARE/WHEEL, a shelter led by houseless and formerly houseless women, who have also produced an amazing series of poetry anthologies and finally to the final and ultimate move on the third day: the Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources UnTour.

My life seems to be made up of waiting now 

Waiting for housing

Waiting for the end of a hot flash 

Waiting for Laundry 

Waiting for a Shower

Waiting to Lie Down

Waiting for a prescription to be filled

Waiting for a meal 

Before I used to make things happen 

Now i wait for them to happen

…. By Peaches from The Sisterhood of Homeless Women in Poetry Anthology (SHARE/WHEEL’s poetry collections) 

Stolen Land/Stolen Lives Waiting to Lie Down 

“There are so many things i have to say about the pain of losing my brother…” Rick T Williams, brother of John T Williams, a houseless, indigenous relative who was killed by Seattle Police in 2010, spoke softly at the opening of the prayerful and powerful Stolen Land Untour launched at Leschi Park. 

Rick’s opening was especially powerful because POOR Magazine’s Pacific Northwest family was involved in writing, reporting and supporting the Williams family since the horrible killing of John T, and we included the story in Poverty Scholarship- Poor people-led theory, art, words and tears across Mama Earth 

From Left: Youth Skola Tibu leading us thru the four directions at the Stolen Land UnTour. Photo by Eagleson Williams

“I am a carver like my brother, and my son and whole family, carving is medicine, carving is healing.” John T Williams and his son Eagleson presented us with a beautiful carved offering that we have on our altar at Homefulness.

The Stolen Land /Hoarded Resources UnTours were launched in Mama Earth Day 2016 to share the medicine of Radical Redistribution and ComeUnity Reparations with wealth-hoarders and land occupiers across Turtle Island as well as to UnWash the Settler Lies told and sold about all of this occupied indigenous land, now held hostage by the lie of private property. It is not a protest or an action, merely a calling in to redistribute the excess homes and resources that wealth-hoarders acquire and hoard to folks who have no homes and no resources. 

Like all of occupied Turtle Island, there are Herstories and Histories intentionally silenced so that colonial possession can happen unabated. The warriors from this territory at Stop the Sweeps and Real Change who sponsored us to come and do the UnTour did this research about the location of our launch.


This spot was once called Saw Grass Point, where Duwamish, Suquamish, Nisqually and other people would gather bulrushes for household mats.

Leschi lived around the Nisqually River south of here.  He was part of the Hachoo-absch, which means People of the Large Lake. 

Leschi was an organizer of indigenous resistance against the settlers known as Bostons. Leschi helped organize a major armed attack on the little logging town near Elliot Bay. The attack failed to dislodge the Bostons. 

Leschi was captured and hanged in 1858 for his part in resistance.

Thirty years later, a private cable car company owned this land and developed the park. The president of the cable car company named this park after Leschi.  

“We are here to propose radical redistribution and reparations of some of your stolen and hoarded wealth to the houseless, indigenous peoples of this town so they can build their own Homefulness.” Aunty Frances Moore, Black Panther, POOR Magazine author, Po Poet, co-founder of Homefulness and founder of the Self-Help Hunger Program spoke into the intercom system that fronted one of the multi-million-dollar homes along the waterway in the Leschi area. 

“This is a calling in, an invitation to come to the next Decolonization/DegentriFUKation seminar at PeopleSkool to help heal you from the lies of hoarding and speculating and the violence of krapitalism,” I added walking into one of the heavily gated homes that happened to be unlocked.

The doors were never opened, the intercoms were never answered but three people stood at their beautiful plate glass windows taking videos of our group of about 100 people walking peacefully down this street of so much excess, no doubt posting them on “Nextdoor” or some other website filled with hate of poor and houseless people. But healing from the settler lies of private property and hoarding aren’t overnight processes. It’s a lifetime.

The weekend long circle of prayerful power of voices, love, learning and radical sharing to ultimately MamaFest a Homefulness #3 in Chief Si’ahl was completed by EagleSon who spoke a closing prayer in his tribal language. And like his father, Rick T Williams said, “this healing has only just begun.”  

To radically redistribute to build the Pacific Northwest Homefulness email poormag@gmail.com. For more information on the upcoming session of PeopleSkool go to poormagazine.org/education. The prayer walk was captured by a blog and images by indigenous youth artist Eagleson,  nephew of John T Williams and son of Rick T Williams and part of the Williams family of carvers. Stay tuned for the video of the UnTour and stories which will be published in POOR Magazine/PNW column.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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