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Nickelsville & Tent City Homeless Desperately Need Wood to Stay Warm

Larry Washington burns pallets that are used to elevate tents at Tent City, since they ran out of fire wood. (Photo by Kim Shepard)

If you’ve been shivering in this intensely cold weather while walking to your car or waiting for the bus, imagine not having a warm home to go back to. The extreme cold is taking its toll on homeless residents living in Seattle’s Nickelsville and the folks who live at Tent City4 in Sammamish.

All of the camps have run out of firewood and have started burning the pallets they use to elevate their tents above the ground.

“This is the coldest I’ve ever seen it. We’re out of firewood so we’re definitely in need of firewood,” said Aaron Berkhardt, arbitrator of the 22nd Ave. and Union St. Nickelsville neighborhood.

“It’s been rough, it’s been cold. We try and have zero degree sleeping bags and blankets, but not everyone has a sleeping bag right now so that’s a problem. Blankets, sleeping bags, tents, tarps. That’s how we pretty much survive.”

Each Nickelsville neighborhood is a little different. Aaron’s community is only open to adults, while the Nickelsville on Jackson Street takes in whole families.

“Most of us pretty much survive from our food stamps, the money that we get from working,” Aaron said. “Some folks work, some folks are in school. We pretty much take care of ourselves, but we do get donations from time to time.”

The tent city neighborhoods are designed to be a community where people look out for each other. Everyone is assigned a security shift – that’s how they pay their rent and there are other jobs, too. Larry Washington is the camp “wood master.”

“I take care of all the wood that needs to be burned. We keep the fire going 24 hours so if it’s cold, people can come out here, stand by the fire, and keep their hands warm. Keeping warm is a big thing now. I have a sleeping bag, but right now I need another one because you need two to stay warm, you know. When I’m not in the sleeping bag I’m by the fire.”

Nickelsville resident Kitty says she doesn’t even have a sleeping bag.

“I’ve got four fleece blankets layered with other blankets on top of my bed and that only works up until 25 degrees. When we get out [of the tent] everything we touch is freezing cold, so it makes your hands cold. We need gloves, hats, coats.”

A woman, who often donates to Nickelsville, dropped by to take some of their clothes and blankets to a Laundromat.

“I sometimes have trouble getting my laundry done – I can’t imagine living in a tent. I think in the wintertime there’s so much condensation in the tents that things get wet and mildewy and they need things washed and dried out. I’m lucky. I have a house, a family, a car, and I’m very thankful for it. I can’t imagine getting up and having to go to work everyday from a tent, especially in these conditions.”

Tent City and Nickelsville residents can use your help during this extreme cold snap. They need:


Items can be dropped off at any of these locations:

1) SHARE/WHEEL’s Tent City4 is located at Lake Sammamish State Park. They are in the Hans Jensen Group: 4400 E. Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE. Their phone number is 425-618-3901.

2) The Nickelsville Union Neighborhoods Address is 1419 22nd Ave Seattle. It is hosted by the Good Shepherd Church around the corner on Union. Their phone number is 206-450-5268.

3) The Nickelsville Jackson Neighborhood is at 2020 South Jackson Street, Seattle. Their phone number is 206-612-1838.

To donate money, that will go towards things like Dumpsters, portable toilets, etc, send a check to: P.O. Box 2548 in Seattle, WA 98111.

If you want to donate to a particular community, please designate which one you’d like to give to on the check or on an attached note.

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