A September 1st deadline is looming for residents of the Nickelsville homeless encampment. A few months ago, the city warned residents the camp would be shut down and it allocated $500,000 to help people relocate.
With less than a week to go, it’s clear many don’t know where they’ll head. Sunday night and every night this week, a group of volunteers say they’ll be outside the camp shining flashlights to show support for the people there.
Camp leaders have told everyone to be ready to leave Sunday, but as the group gathered for its regular weekly meeting it was clear many don’t know where that will be.
“We need the move master to step up, let us know how the move is going,” one camp resident yelled.
The residents have a lot of questions but they’re also determined to stay together. “Until we get a place for everybody here, we're not going to be moving,” Jim Heinden said.
With city notices posted on tents and buildings inside the camp, there are constant reminders the deadline is drawing close and stressing out many who live here. “I’m kind of on edge because it's at the end and we don't know what we're doing and we don't know what's going on,” one resident said.
“A place for everyone or no one” Heinden added. But finding a place for everyone has turned out to be difficult.
Mike Keever and his wife have been at Nickelsville for more than a year and want to move with others from the group. Keever has interviewed with the placement counselors, but his criminal history has made it hard to find a place that he considers safe.
“You see a lot of people stressing, they've never been through anything like this,” Keever explained.
47 people have found placement with city assistance, but that hasn't stopped more people from coming. It's also brought new support from a local group that says the problem is bigger than just Nickelsville.
“There's a lot of people on the brink of homelessness or already homeless and there are no resources,” Mary Anne DeVry said. DeVry led a group of supporters who stood outside the camp with their flashlights trying to bring attention to the issue.
“They're ordinary people that have just had one misfortune too many,” she said.
The deadline is approaching, but Keever says he’s confident they’ll soon have a new place to go. “It will work, Nickelsville's done this before; it’s just been a while.”
Camp leaders say they’ve secured two small locations where some from the camp will be able to go, but they’re not large enough for everyone. They’re still negotiating with other landlords to see if they can work something out.