Self-Management at Nickelsville
Nickelsville’s goal is not only to survive homelessness, but to help solve homelessness while living in an empowering, self-managed setting.
New Villagers—Nickelodeons decide who lives with them. Applicants are interviewed at the village level by people who live there. After that, the Staff Organizer speaks to the applicant to make sure they understand that Nickelsville is operated by the people who live there and gives input to the interviewers, who make the final decision. Self-management naturally requires more participation and responsibility than at a typical shelter.
Nickelsville adheres to the anti-discrimination laws in the Fair Housing Act.
After accepting the offer of a tiny house, the applicant walks though the Nickelsville Intake Agreement, which contains Zero Tolerance and other rules. Our guiding principle regarding rules is “No one should be surprised by a bar.” Originally, Nickelsville had only eight rules. Over time other rules were added as needed. Within the first week Nickelodeons instituted a “sobriety required” policy because it wasn’t possible to operate the kind of shelter they envisioned if they remained low-barrier.
Responsibilities—Each adult Nickelodeon must complete Security shifts every week. Security duties include staffing the gate, making sure basic village rules are being followed, answering the phone, and completing cleaning chores. In addition, there’s a weekly village meeting that’s mandatory unless proof of employment is shown. There is also a voluntary weekly Central Committee Meeting at the Nickelsville office where general Nickelsville business is discussed and addressed and issues surrounding poverty, discrimination, and homelessness in Seattle and elsewhere are shared. Once a month each adult must earn a Participation Credit by taking part in an event that furthers the goals of Nickelsville and has been endorsed by the Central Committee. Examples of Participation Credit opportunities include attending the Central Committee Meeting, a meeting of an ally organization, a community event or meeting, making public comments at a meeting, meeting with an elected official, or helping a Tent City move.
Bar Appeals—Other than for violence all bars can be appealed through a transparent, peer-reviewed Bar Appeal Process that culminates at the Central Committee Meeting. Bars may be upheld, overturned, limited to time already spent away from the village, or the villager may be asked to sign an agreement to return under certain conditions.
Leadership—The Head of Security, Arbitrator, and External Affairs Coordinator are the elected Triad at each village. The Triad is responsible for ensuring that the rules and policies of Nickelsville are adhered to and that villagers are counseled before being held accountable unless the villager is endangering themselves or others. Two out of three of the Triad must sign a Bar. Other elected positions include Bookkeeper, Kitchen Coordinator, and Donations Coordinator.
Staff—Nickelsville’s Staff facilitates the weekly meetings by offering suggestions based on their historical knowledge of Nickelsville specifically and homelessness in Seattle in general and by providing information regarding homelessness. Staff may not vote or make a motion at a meeting. Nickelsville villages have no paid staff on site. When Staff live at a village they must defer to the elected Leadership of that village. Staff may not speak to the media for attribution, but may give background information followed by referring the press to informed Nickelodeons, when requested. Nickelsville Staff have weekly meetings to discuss Nickelsville business. Unlike hierarchical organizations, Staff are expected to hold each other accountable. Participants may submit Incident Reports or Grievances directly to the BOD. The board, or it’s designees, must investigate the complaints and provide a written report.
Board of Directors—Nickelsville’s seven-member Board of Directors is comprised entirely of members who have lived at Nickelsville. In addition to supporting Nickelsville’s growth, their responsibilities include making decisions on the recommendations of the Hiring Committee, and holding Staff accountable based on Incident Reports, Grievances, and recommendations of the Hiring Committee that was elected by the Central Committee.