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Nickelsville Works

The website for Nickelsville is NickelsvilleWorks and it is very aptly named. This is a mini-exercise in participatory democracy. The Tiny Housing Village at 22nd and Union operates like other Nickelsville sites; they have a standard set of rules, but rules can be amended at the weekly meetings by a vote of the residents. Everyone shares in the work and everyone gives an hour a month to the greater community. In this area, that work consists of picking up litter at the construction site (where the gas station used to be) and the plastic bags that are immediately dropped on the ground by eager customers from Uncle Ike’s. One does not see litter on the Village site. There are recycling bins, a garbage dumpster and a food waste composter.

This Village consists of 14 tiny houses, each with their house number displayed. Various groups have contributed to the building of these houses, including tribal groups. Sawhorse Revolution was mentioned as the builder of the shower house and two of the houses, including one with a loft. (Sawhorse is a Seattle non-profit that works with high school students in central and south Seattle to build these tiny homes. They use recycled materials as much as possible. Photos of the houses at this site may be seen at

Currently there are 17 adults, 6 children and 5 pets living in this village. The shelter space in Seattle is usually limited to single persons of one sex: men at one shelter and women at another and no space for children or pets at any of the shelters. The children here attend school; one preschooler is in a pre-school program, the teenagers are able to get to Garfield High on Metro and the younger children are taken to school in a taxi.

Each resident has tasks, two shifts for a working person and three shifts for non-working persons. The longest shifts are those at the gate with one person working 7-4, another 4-11 and a third person has the night shift 11-7, but that person can be in their own tiny home (rather than the gate house) as they can be called if a resident returns after the gates are locked at 11pm.

Folks sign up for 30-minute shower periods and in that time must leave the area clean for the next person. The Kitchen tent has many tables with plastic bins storing foods that could attract rodents. The large refrigerator is for personal food; each house has a plastic container with the house number on it to identify the owner. A smaller fridge holds donated foods, which are up for grabs by any resident. There is a donated microwave, which also has a grill in the upper level that makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, I am told. There is also a burner for cooking. Cookware is shared and hangs in the tent.

The Village is invited to attend Sunday services at the Good Shepherd Church (which owns the property) and join in the Sunday breakfast afterward. The church gives some emergency support, such as adding to the toilet tissue supply when they run out. The $90 rent for each unit goes toward paying the utility bill. Each house has heat and electricity and of course, the waste costs for garbage and food waste are considerable for a group this size.

This Nickelsville has a local hero: Doug Hobkirk, who is considered their structural guru. Doug has been a builder and actually made the safe, sturdy sheds for the Nickelsville site that was once on Dearborn. He has built the guard shacks at the various sites. He lives within a mile of the Union St. site and visits twice a week. He was checking on the condition of the kitchen tent with its larger porch structure while I was there. He had added handrails to the steps before each of the 14 tiny houses. He said the residents will vote on improvements, deciding if the money will to be found from LIHI or if they are to seek donations.

This Tiny village is considered transitional housing and caseworkers guide residents through the process of obtaining housing that is more permanent. A one-year anniversary party is planned for January 31 at 6pm with a celebratory dinner at the church. Tours of the Tiny House Village are available before and after the dinner. Donations can be taken to the welcome hut at the entrance any day: 1419 22nd Ave.

~Diane Snell

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