Bitcoin.com recently spoke with Michael Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost concerning an upcoming threat against the Satoshi Forest sanctuary’s livelihood by neighboring property owners and Escambia County officials. A magistrate is expected to give a decision on August 12 whether Satoshi Forest has violated an ordinance regarding residents staying on the land, which could include heavy fines against the organization and eviction.
Well-Known Bitcoin Nonprofit Satoshi Forest Is Threatened by County Violations
The Sean’s Outpost charity has been fueled by Bitcoin since its start 2013. Founded by Michael Kimberl and Jason King, the organization has created an outreach program called “Satoshi Forest.” Spread across nine acres of land in Pensacola, Florida, the project provides shelter for the homeless and has fed over 167,000 meals — all paid for with cryptocurrency.
Current Satoshi Forest residents are in jeopardy of being kicked off the land, and the owners may be threatened with costly fines that could bankrupt them. The project is allegedly in violation of a county ordinance that forbids structures and residents from staying on the land for longer than fourteen days.
Additionally, owners of neighboring property do not want the outreach to continue sheltering homeless people.
I think they had reason to be concerned at the beginning of 2014. We were thinking outside the box. No one had attempted to do what we were doing. I fully understood being apprehensive, but here we are 2 years later. It is harassment at this point.
Bitcoin.com (BC): Can you tell our readers what’s happening with Satoshi Forest and the county at the moment?
Michael Kimberl (MK): We had a hearing last Wednesday (July 27, 2016) over a violation of the County’s Land Use Code. It states that we can not allow temporary structures (tents) on our property for more than 14 days a year. They are using this violation to coerce Sean’s Outpost into asking the County for permission to use our property the way we see fit. That is to simply allow people with nowhere else to go a safe place to rest their head. So the County has had us apply with the Development Review Committee to look over our plans to see if they will issue us permission to use our land as we see fit.
“We have people who live in the surrounding neighborhood that have brought in firewood, food, and other supplies to help the people there out.”
BC: After being presented with complaints, do you feel county officials have been fair concerning this case?
MK: I think they had reason to be concerned at the beginning of 2014. We were thinking outside the box. No one had attempted to do what we were doing. I fully understood being apprehensive, but here we are two years later. It is harassment at this point. We have e-mails that show after the Judge Bergosh ruled in our favor with the County Attorney sending out an email suggesting that they mind the code, and they did just that. As soon as the new code went into effect, they issued these new violations. All this time with no incident, you would think that a phone call or letter asking to come in and discuss things would be a better way to work with the community than to issue a cease and desist.
BC: There have been neighbors who take issue to the outreach. How have most of the locals in the area reacted to this? Are there supportive people or is there a significant majority against what you are doing?
MK: I feel that we are loved by the community. Local homeless organizations work with us because they see the need for what we are doing. We are very limited on shelter here in Pensacola.
Even in the local papers here. It is common practice to never read the comments. I had a friend call who told me to read the comments. I reluctantly did with a cringe and was surprised to see it was mostly supportive. It was amazing. We have people who live in the surrounding neighborhood that have brought in firewood, food, and other supplies to help the people there out.
We do have a handful of neighbors that are just not into what we are doing. I fully understand where they are coming from. They are concerned with an array of issues, from property values to increased crime, sanitation, or violence. All of which are valid. Sean’s Outpost made multiple attempts to open dialog with them at the beginning but got nowhere. Let’s just say we were not given the welcome wagon.
We have no intention of stopping. The work we do is too important. We are on the moral high ground.
BC: If you were to have a conversation with some of your neighbors, what would you say to neighboring property owners who think the outreach should be shut down?
MK: I would attempt to assure them that we share the same concerns. We want Satoshi Forest to be a shining light in the community. We are looking to beautify the property more than we already have (It was an illegal dump site before we bought it). We do not want drug addiction, thief, or violence on the property either. We are seeking to improve people’s quality of life, and to be a stepping stone towards helping them get back on their feet.
BC: How do you think the judgment will go after going through the proceedings? Are you optimistic or do you feel it may be negative?
MK: At one of the hearings the Magistrate gave us a continuance that said even if he were to find us in violation he would order us to go though the very process that we are currently going through, so I am in hopes that will be his final ruling, and we can just finish this process. The negative is that the Development Review process is arduous, and feels as if they are making it more difficult than it needs to be, and there are politics going on behind the scenes.
BC: What do you plan on doing if they judge against Satoshi Forest in this case?
MK: We will continue to work towards our stated goals to create lasting solutions to homelessness, hunger, poverty, and social injustice. We have no intention of stopping. The work we do is too important. We are on the moral high ground.
Thank you, Michael, for speaking with us about this situation. We at Bitcoin.com hope the threats of violation and fines go away for Satoshi Forest, and your organization continues to be a shining light in the community.
What do you think about the issues Satoshi Forest is facing at the moment? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via Sandspaper.com, MK Lords Crypto Convos, Pixabay and Sean’s Outpost.