April 4 Update: A talk with Marcus Adams about Nickelsville Security
Go to Update HERE.
March 10, 2014
Yesterday I received information that a man who once lived at Nickelsville Highland Park – and might even have been in charge of “security” there – is cooling his heels in the King County Jail on $250,000 bail.
The man’s name:
Attempted Child Molestation
[Click on the image below to enlarge]
Here’s a head-shot of Mr. Adams, taken while he was living at Nickelsville:
As I understand it, Mr. Adams moved into Nickelsville shortly after the squatter’s camp turned up at Highland Park in early 2011. He lived there for at least a year. One of my sources remembers him being there until about a year before Nickelsville left Highland Park in September 2013. If it’s true that Mr. Adams was in charge of Nickelsville “Security” at some point that means he would have been in charge of screening others for entry into the camp.
Whether he was responsible for screening entrants or not, Mr. Adams did stay at Nickelsville long enough to have come in contact with several of the children who moved in and out of the camp, and please remember that these children were there with the full knowledge of Nickelsville bosses Scott Morrow and Peggy Hotes. After leaving the camp, Mr. Adams did not go far. He was living for several months in downtown White Center, in a building that a friend of mine jokingly refers to as “The Meth Arms” — presumably because there are so many former (and current) methamphetamine users there.
According to my source, Mr. Adams was arrested in Utah and extradited to Seattle for further processing. I will continue updating you as I get information, but in the meantime, please see my caveats below . . .
Caveat 1: Mr. Adams has not been convicted of anything. He has merely been charged.
Caveat 2: As far as I know, the charges against Mr. Adams do not date to the time he was at Nickelsville.
Caveat 3: Even if Mr. Adams is convicted, it won’t mean that he’s Satan or that he should be hounded from place to place by mobs with pitchforks. It won’t even necessarily mean that he shouldn’t have been staying at Nickelsville.
It will mean, however, that there should never have been children there at Nickelsville in the first place, which is what I have been TRYING to get across to various politicians, government officials, and church ladies for the longest time!
April 4, 2014
I visited Marcus Adams at the King County Jail on Saturday, March 29 to ask him some questions about his time at Nickelsville. During this visit I did not talk with Mr. Adams about the child molestation charges against him (see above).
Here’s what I learned in the course of the discussion:
► Mr. Adams arrived at the Nickelsville homeless encampment about three months after they moved into their location at Highland Park. (This would have been sometime in May of 2011.) Prior to living at Nickelsville, Adams had lived at other SHARE-run homeless encampments for a total of about two years.
► Adams stayed at Nickelsville for approximately 10 months before moving into an apartment in downtown White Center. While he was there several families with children stayed there.
► Adams was head of security at Nickelsville Highland Park for about six months. As was customary, he shared these duties with another person.
Security chiefs at Nickelsville make the final decision on whether someone is allowed into camp. They are also responsible for training other residents on how to do resident intakes. Intakes is done by whoever happens to be “on security” (i.e., manning the security booth) when a prospective new resident shows up.
Security shifts last two hours and the work is divided up – theoretically at least – among all campers. At least two campers are supposed to be on security duty 24/7.
Intake is a three-part process that includes: (1) checking the name of the new resident against a list of registered sex offenders, (2) doing a phone-in warrant check with the police, and (3) going over the camp rules with the campers. The camp check-in process takes about 20 minutes. If the new camper is a sex offender or has an outstanding warrant, he will be turned away. If the camper does not agree to abide by the rules, he will be turned away.
* * * * *
When I asked Mr. Adams about the overall security situation during the six months he was chief, he said it was very tight. I asked him whether people used phony IDs or had no ID and he said that was very rare. He also said the sex-offender and warrant-check processes were streamlined and effective. He told me that in the time he was there, he’d had to turn a maximum of about 10 people, either because they showed up on the sex offender registry or they had an outstanding warrant. He’d also had to call the cops a few times, he said, to have an obnoxious drunk booted out of camp.
The warrant check process depends on having a working phone at the security desk, and I asked Mr. Adams about a story I’d heard that the front-desk phone at Nickelsville was often out of commission. He allowed that that was true and said that the phone service was frequently cut off because Mr. Morrow had not paid the phone bill.
“What did you do when the phone wasn’t working?” I asked him. “How did you do the warrant checks?”
“We borrowed somebody’s phone. Or I used my own.”
* * * * *
I asked Mr. Adams if he had any criticism of the security situation at Nickelsville, and he told me that after he left, things went downhill. He visited the camp from time to time after moving out and noticed that people were openly doing drugs in camp – he could see them doing drugs in or near their tents – and that security was often lax or even non-existent.
“Why did that happen?” I asked. “Because people are just lazy,” he said. “And after I left, nobody cared anymore.”
Wasn’t the laxness on security also a problem when you were there? I asked him. He admitted that it was, though to a lesser degree. Adams told me that one of his biggest challenges as a security chief was getting people who were manning the security desk to take the job seriously and do it right. When he was there, he rode them, making sure that they did the intakes right. But after he left as security chief, his replacements did not take their role as as seriously as he had.
Didn’t Scott Morrow (boss of SHARE and Nickelsville) care about this? I asked. No, Adams said. Scott was much more concerned with how the port-a-potties and Dumpsters were going to get paid for.
* * * * *
Nickelsville a Democracy?
I talked at length with Mr. Adams about Mr. Morrow’s longstanding claim that Nickelsville is a democratically run camp. Adams told me that Nickelsville was not a democracy and that Morrow was known to regularly countermand directives of the security chiefs and to overrule decisions of the camp “arbitrators” who decided on punishments for campers who had broken some rule or other. This caused resentment among camp residents, Adams told me, because Mr. Morrow didn’t even live in the camp.
Interestingly enough, one of the running disagreements between Mr. Adams and Mr. Morrow, according to Adams, was over the question of whether campers would be allowed to sleep off a drunk in their tents. Adams said he took the position that campers who got drunk or high off property should be allowed to come back at night, as long as they didn’t make trouble. Morrow, on the other hand, believed that returning campers who showed up drunk or stoned should be turned away.
Another bone of contention was Morrow’s decision to reject out of hand the Sunny Jim site proposal. (The Sunny Jim site is the location of the disused Sunny Jim peanut butter plant.) Mayor McGinn had proposed the site as a permanent location for Nickelsville, and Adams told me that a strong majority of Nickelodeons were for the Sunny Jim proposal. But Morrow overruled them without even allowing the question to go to a vote of campers.
Note: The Sunny Jim site was later rejected by the City Council, too, though ostensibly for other reasons. In early 2013, when I asked Mr. Morrow why he had rejected the Sunny Jim site and other proposals from the Council and/or the Mayor, he told me that they were too restrictive.
I will keep you posted on the outcome of the “attempted child molestation” charge against Mr. Adams. Regarding Mr. Adams perspective on the security situation at Nickelsville, I have not been able to independently determine whether security was more or less lax at Nickelsville Highland Park after Mr. Adams left the camp. I do know that during the time he said he was security chief there, at least one registered sex offender slipped through the net briefly. You can read more about that story here.
On the question of whether Nickelsville is democratically run by the residents, I have heard reports from a number of ex-Nickelodeons that support Mr. Adams version. The narrative that emerges from those stories is one in which the camps are run by campers only so long as campers’ decisions don’t contradict the wishes of Mr. Morrow. According to the narrative, Morrow insists on having the last word on all major decisions. If that narrative is true (which I believe it is) it poses a dilemma both for Morrow and for the camps in general. Morrow is clearly a busy man. In addition to overseeing at least two non-profit organizations (SHARE and Nickelsville) Morrow has placed himself in charge of the daily operations of two tent cities, two homeless camps, and a number of shelter sites within Seattle city limits. One of the homeless camps (the Nickelsville at 20th and Jackson) has young children and infants living there, amid recovering (and active) drug addicts, felons, and the mentally ill.
Is it really possible for one person with so many duties to assure the safety of all these people?