Letter from Camp Dearborn

The letter below was sent yesterday via e-mail to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council concerning a city-sanctioned homeless encampment in downtown Seattle known as Camp Dearborn (formerly Nickelsville Dearborn). The author, David Delgado, is a social worker hired last August by the camp operator, SHARE. Delgado is one of the leaders of a group inside the camp that has been struggling to wrest control  from SHARE and the Low Income Housing Institute.

Photo by David Preston

Camp Dearborn is under an eviction notice as a result of the property owner’s request to the city, which is included under Delgado’s letter. 


 

Camp Dearborn
1010 South Dearborn Street

February 21, 2016

Honorable Mayor Murray and Seattle City Council:

My name is David Delgado and I started working at Nickelsville in August of 2015. On January 28th I was fired by Scott Morrow. However, Camp Dearborn eventually made a vote of no-confidence in Scott Morrow and voted to reinstate me as their staff. At that point, I had made many attempts to bring up critical safety issues to both LIHI and Scott Morrow. Although Scott Morrow states he fired me for not completing tasks, I believe I was fired so Scott and Sharon Lee from LIHI can hide the fact that they have neglected Camp Dearborn. In the time I have been working at Nickelsville, I have witnessed Scott Morrow putting campers’ lives at risk. I am willing to sit down with any council member face to face for further explanation regarding the Nickelsville model and how Scott Morrow’s management is harmful to our unhoused community members,.  This letter is in regards to the many untruths that Sharon Lee has stated to you and our community.

On February 19th Sharon Lee wrote to the Mayor and City Council in a letter: “Support was also provided by social workers from Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI)” and Sharon told the Stranger newspaper that she does provide case managers to Dearborn. There is a case manager at Ballard that comes to the camp four days a week for about 2 hours a day. At the Tiny House Village their case manager seems to be there often. I have never seen a case manager at Dearborn and the lack of case management support has been talked about during camp meetings many times. Even a LIHI employee has admitted, during a meeting at City Hall following Scott’s vote of no-confidence, to Dearborn and Tiny Village leadership, myself and Councilmember Lisa Herbold that LIHI “dropped the ball on Dearborn.”

In Sharon Lee’s letter, she states the state of the camp has deteriorated since Dearborn voted no confidence in Scott Morrow. Sharon says that there has been an explosion of rats, the trash is overflowing, multiple entrances have been created through the gates, and used syringes lying scattered around the camp are common. This information is extremely false. The problems she describes were occurring since last summer, and are symptoms of how badly Dearborn has been neglected by Scott Morrow and LIHI.

I had brought all of the safety concerns she states to Scott in mid-October and had made multiple attempts to report these concerns to LIHI’s upper management. Not only did LIHI never get back to me, but Sharon Lee refused to join the meeting when the leaders of the camp, LIHI middle management, LIHI Case Managers, Tim Harris and myself met with Councilmember Herbold. I also filed a grievance against Scott for the fact that he was aware of leaders who were involved in drug sales and threatening campers’ lives. To this day, I am still waiting to speak with the Nickelsville board as a last requirement of my grievance process which I started in December 2015. None of the concerns were dealt with, which is a large part of what led the encampments to vote no confidence in Scott.

Sharon Lee also is concerned about the safety of Camp Dearborn. I can assure you the encampment is still following a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, and violence within the camp. No one is arming themselves with machetes. Sharon Lee’s statements are unethical and irresponsible. She is character-assassinating the campers for safety problems that they have done a lot to solve with no support from LIHI or Scott Morrow. Her letter is harmful to the unhoused community as a whole, as it perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Camp Dearborn decided they’re going to invite [Seattle Police] Chief O’Toole to come share a meal with them so she can see the state of the Camp herself. They are extremely worried that SPD will now get the impression that the campers are dangerous, armed criminals, and they feel they must go out of their way to disprove the slanderous falsehoods of Sharon Lee’s letter and her statements being spread on KIRO news. They feel Sharon’s letter has put their physical safety at risk.

Nickelsville claims to be a self-governing community. On January 28th they practiced this self-government by voting no confidence in a staff member who had done them great harm. On Friday, February 19, 2016, the encampment voted for Polly Trout and myself to be the staff members for the Dearborn encampment for the interim. They gave Polly Trout the role of Camp Organizer and they gave me the role of Crisis and Safety Support Staff. Polly is willing for the Dearborn encampment to be fiscally sponsored by her 501c3, Patacara Community Services, whether it be permanent or for the interim. Ever since Sharon Lee stopped paying for the trash, Polly Trout has been covering the payments for our trash runs. Polly and I already took away 1.4 tons of trash two weeks ago and we have another trash run scheduled for this week. Polly and I are more than qualified to be the staff for this encampment. We are managing it in a much safer way than it has been. We also treat the community with respect and dignity.

I trust that as leaders of our city you will take the camp’s grievance with Scott Morrow seriously as well as the character assassination and slander of Sharon Lee’s messages to our community. Camp Dearborn deserves to exist without being forced to align with a management that has treated them so poorly. If you don’t believe Polly and I are a good fit to help the camp, then I hope that you will do everything in your power to help Camp Dearborn.

I strongly feel that LIHI and Scott Morrow are trying their hardest to hide the many civil rights violations I have witnessed and tried to bring to light since last year. For the sake of safety of all of the unhoused people in Seattle, please investigate these facts before the camp dissolves. I am confident that if the city did investigate, the city would find that the narrative that LIHI and Scott Morrow has shared is false. Polly and I would like to meet with the City to find a healthy solution to this dilemma. Camp Dearborn welcomes any city official, including the police chief, to come down and see firsthand the reality of this situation.

Feel free to contact me by email.

Sincerely,

David Delgado, MSW

 


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