Jesus was Homeless Too! Please Help Seattle’s Nickelsville

by in Kitchen Sink December 24, 2008

Photobucket Did you know that the “Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told” was about people that were essentially homeless?

Although the situation was temporary and brought on by the need to pay taxes, Mary and Joseph certainly found themselves in quite the Bethlehem predicament, “and they wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.”

Certainly not the perfect Pottery Barn moment that all parents imagine with their new baby!

It is freezing here in Seattle, and with snow all around I am very concerned about our homeless citizens. The shelters this time of year are flooded, and those that have decided to form their own community, “Nickelsville” have been given tremendous grief by the city.


Fortunately the University Christian Church has opened their heart and parking lot to this homeless protest agains the city of Seattle, but the homeless people in Nickelsville still need our help with the freezing conditions.

The city of Seattle may not have the power to end the rising rates of homelessness, but the individuals within the city walls certainly do.

All it would take is for everyone to open up their hearts to the root cause of homelessness.

What is the Real Cause of Homelessness?

If I had to sum it up in one sentence I would jump out on a limb and say, “lack of family.”

Feel free to argue with me on this one, and maybe you will be right, but when you consider the deeper cause of homelessness behind the superficial labels of alcoholism, drug addiction, joblessness, illness, inability to work due to mental or physical challenges you start to realize that lack of family or a community support system is the true cause of homelessness. Many people are mentally ill, jobless, chronically ill, addicted to drugs and alcohol—but they aren’t homeless.


Why aren’t they homeless? Why isn’t every jobless alcoholic homeless?

Why isn’t every person with depression homeless?

Why isn’t every chronically ill or handicapped person homeless? Why isn’t every drug addict homeless?

Because they have a family looking out for them.

Think about your family situation. How many family members away from homelessness are you?

If the answer is zero you are certainly at risk of homelessness in this rough economy. If you are thinking, “well I could always move in with my parents, or my sister, or my aunt, or my grandma, or my other aunt, or a cousin, or…or…” then you are far removed from ever becoming homeless.

You are likely seven to ten family members away from being homeless.

Harrowing circumstances happen to everyone, that is just life, but with the unconditional support of a family you will likely always have shelter over your head and food in your belly.

Because your family cares about you.Photobucket

Many people dread visiting family during the holidays for whatever stressful reason, but look around next time you are at a family gathering with appreciation. These are the people that prevent you from being homeless.

If I ever had a Christmas wish to come true, I wish we could extract all the ridiculous commercialism from Christmas and focus on the actual point of the holiday. Just think of all the money we have all wasted on decorations, that could build homes, buy food and blankets, provide shelter. The commercialism of Christmas in itself could likely end homelessness as each family spends an average of $1200 on unfulfilled consumerism.

The Christian “Savior” was once homeless and in need of help, and the only help he had were Three Wise Men with frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Let’s be smart and instead get some decent shelter, food and warm clothes for our Seattle homeless!

What do Homeless People Really Need?

After working with the homeless for two years throughout my internship with Bastyr, I learned that what homeless people really need is someone to listen. What they need is for someone to care about them “no matter what.” They need someone to believe in them.

They need someone to check in with them and make sure they are sticking to their goals. They need someone to hold their hand and tell them everything will be okay. You know–the way our families do?


Sure there are those individuals holding signs on the street corner that want twenty bucks and what is it to you to give it to them, but handing a homeless person twenty bucks is not addressing the cause of their homelessness.

Nor is thinking, “I won’t give them twenty bucks because they are just going to spend it on beer or drugs.”

They need to be connected, they need a community, they need a “family.” They need you to care about THEM, and they need your twenty bucks.

What Can You do to Help the Homeless?

We all need to be that family for people that don’t have one this time of year.

With these winter conditions it is an emergency situation with the homeless that we provide them with warm shelter right now.

For those hanging out in pink tents in camp Nickelsville, it is important that they have the emergency supplies that they need. If you would like to make a donation or volunteer your time visit the website.

When a storm hits, homeless people can’t just hop in their 4wd SUV and head to Safeway to load up on Duraflames and frozen pizzas. Now is the time to extend help to our most vulnerable citizens.

I wish the real priority for every Christmas holiday would not be toys or trees, lights or decorations. I wish that the real point of Christmas became making sure that “there is always room in the inn” and that no homeless person goes hungry. Think of how much food we all overeat in the name of Christmas. All that overeating could likely sustain the homeless Nickelsville community for months.


I wish we could always use the greatest Christmas story ever told as a reminder that we need to look out for those people that are turned away and told “there is no room in the inn.” If it could happen to Jesus, Joseph, and Mary… then it could happen to anyone.

Can you “adopt” a local homeless person?

By adopt I don’t mean that you have to move them in to your house, I mean you can if you think that would be a safe idea, but what I would prefer people take on is the overall care and supervision of another human being. Treat them like your family. Give them that unconditional love and support that only a family can. The number of homeless currently does not out number those of us with homes. If everyone took it upon themselves to solve the homeless problem in Seattle, it would be solved.

Destroying Community is Not the Cure for Homelessness!

According to homeless activist Lucas, Nickelsville was started so that homeless people can actually make progress and not have to spend the entire day on just one thing like getting food, and taking a shower. Obtaining these day to day necessities is extremely time consuming and just setting homeless people back further and further.

The recent rise in rates of homelessness in Seattle is what inspired this protest against Mayor Nickels plan to remove the homeless from the city by making it illegal to be on park benches and other city owned property.

I find the attempts to destroy Nickelsville appalling. On some levels it is of course a protest by the homeless people to be recognized, but on a deeper level it is an attempt by many homeless people to connect. To form a “Nickelsville Family” a community committed to one another. Destroying the Nickelsville community destroys every attempt to end homelessness.

Shouldn’t we be happy that homeless people are trying to work together? Trying to form a safe community and shelter? Shouldn’t safety of our citizens be the primary concern of our government?


Without the basic human need for safety, no homeless person can likely overcome the challenges of being homeless.

From a psychological standpoint the basic human need for safety is right up there with food and water on the necessity list.

The Nicklesville community is simply trying to provide shelter and safety for its homeless citizens and we should be doing everything we can in our power to support this remarkable attempt.

Here are a few poignant experts I took from the Nickelsville website.

You may want to keep your box of Kleenex close by.

“It’s degrading and dehumanizing.

It’s an atrocity that must be stopped. We can no longer sit idly by and do nothing. The Mayor may want to see them as numbers, because it’s easier to label them that ways. I WON’T. I CAN’T. I will see their faces. The mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, my brothers and sisters. I will look them in the eyes and acknowledge their humanity.

I will embrace them and show them I care. I will fight for them. I will knock down any obstacle that stands in my way. I will scream and yell until my voice is heard or they tear my vocal chords out. WILL YOU? Will you stand for what is just or right, or will you follow the elitists and look the other way?

Some say that Nickelsville is a step backwards, maybe it is, but we may have to take a step backwards in order to take a step forward.

So who are the homeless and why should we care? We like to label everything to make them easier to digest and deal with. Stereotyping is the biggest enemy we have in this world today.


The homeless can’t be classified as a single demographic, just as every German isn’t Hitler and every Jew isn’t Jesus. We come from all walks of life, from every age group, every race, every gender, and sexual orientation. Everyone has a story to tell. Tales that will fascinate you, tales that will bore you, stories that will make you laugh, and of course, stories that will make you cry. They are no different from anyone else, other that they have no home.

I’ve met doctors, lawyers, mechanical engineers, people with bachelors and masters degrees, and people with little or no education. People who were millionaires, middle class, lower class, and teachers who used to be in class. Black, white, male and female. There are truly no boundaries or restrictions to the homeless problem.

Many Americans live one or two paychecks away from being homeless themselves. One catastrophic illness or one lost job away from being in the same boat we are. Some folks have to choose between paying the bills or buying food, buying the medication they need to live or pay the heating bill to keep them warm in the winter. Hard choices to make. Much of the news today is filled with the horrid economy.

The loss of jobs both blue-collar and the outsourcing of white-collar jobs, the crumbling infrastructure, the mortgage crisis, the weakening dollar, astronomical gas prices, increased food prices, natural disasters destroying our crops, inflation, and recession. In the greatest country in the world we can see our own people going hungry and dying on our streets.

But when a homeless person dies, you won’t find it on the front page that is reserved in case Britney Spears or Paris Hilton gets arrested. Instead you may or may not find it in small print on page nine or ten. A man is run over in the greenbelt, but it is his fault because he could have gone to a shelter. A man is killed crossing I-5 getting to his camp, but it’s his fault because he should have stayed in a shelter, and according to Mayor Nickels he shouldn’t be sleeping in those greenbelts anyway. We need to save those greenbelts so the elite can pretend they are environmentalists.


So are these homeless looking for a handout, another free ride, or some sort of private welfare program?

NO!!! They just want to be seen as human, treated with dignity and respect, seen as our brothers and sisters, not as pariahs of society. They are not deadbeats and criminals.

They are just like you and I. They have hopes and dreams. They laugh and cry. They have feelings just like the rest of us.

No longer can we simply step over the homeless man sleeping in the doorway. It’s time we extend our hand to him, help him to his feet, and show him we care.

Instead of asking the elite what to do, why not go to the source and ask the downtrodden what they need.”

Author Mary O’Malley teaches that we should “always hold everyone in our hearts,” so please consider at the very least holding the homeless in your heart, especially on Christmas, and especially with the freezing winter conditions.

~Dr. Nicole

To advocate for the Nickelsville homeless simply contact the Seattle Mayor and the Washington Governor:

Mayor Greg Nickels
(206) 684-4000

Governor Gregoire
(360) 902-4111

Please support the homeless by subscribing to the newspaper “Real Change.”

Photo credits: Sasha, Ckafader, P.S. Zollo, Farfando, Teppo, Jessi, and Daizy B

  1. Great spotlight on a real need! I agree with you completely – homelessness is very connected to lack of family. There are many people in my family who would have been homeless at one time or another if we all didn’t live near one another.

    That thought always comforts me when my immediate family is going through a hard time, because I know if anything happened, my extended family would be there for me – and I would be there for them.

    Bravo for talking about a topic that many people would be hesitant to address.

  2. Absolutely moving post! I liked your statement about how we should not stereotype people and your reference to Hitler and Germans in this context. I personally donate to our local homeless shelters in the Northeast here and I tell you the happiness I get by being able to help a fellow citizen in distress is quite priceless. It is also quite enlightening to note that we are only about seven or so families away from being homeless ourselves. Thank you for such a nice article.

  3. Thank you for a compelling reminder about homelessness and how close we all are to it. Jesus was homeless and we need to show compassion to these people. You are also right about family and the lack of support leading to homelessness. If we all helped, we could really make life better for everyone.

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