Another development today in the saga of the encampment Camp Second Chance.
First, the backstory: Eleven days ago, after three months of being hosted by a church in Tukwila, the camp set up on what turned out to be private land next to the east side of the City of Seattle-owned Myers Way Parcels (WSB report, July 18th). The land’s owner asked them to leave, and they said they would.
That move last weekend took Camp Second Chance across the street (WSB report, July 24th) and just inside the Myers Way Parcels’ main gate on the west side of the street. This past Monday night, when the mayor and city department heads were in West Seattle for the Roxhill/Westwood Find It, Fix It Walk, we asked the city’s real-estate-handling department (Finance and Administrative Services) director Fred Podesta about the camp; he told us (WSB report, July 25th) it was unauthorized and would at some point be told to leave.
That point has already arrived. Polly Trout from Patacara Community Services, the nonprofit that has been working with the camp, just sent the photo atop this story, showing the eviction notice she says the city gave them yesterday, warning the area will be swept next Tuesday (August 2nd). From her e-mail:
On July 28, the City of Seattle gave official notice to Camp Second Chance that they must vacate the unused city lot that they are occupying by this coming Tuesday, August 2, or be swept. Please call Mayor Murray and ask him to give the camp three months on the site while they continue to look for a new host site.
Camp Second Chance is a sober and well managed homeless encampment. The camp is self-governing and receiving supportive services from my 501c3 nonprofit, Patacara Community Services. They have a code of conduct, 24 hour security, Honey Buckets, and trash removal. The community is clean, safe, and ethical.
Until July 18, the camp had a legal site at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila. They were there for three months, as per their agreement with the church, and have been invited to move back there in January. However, they were unable to find another host site in time, and they wanted to honor their three month agreement with the church, so they have moved to a Seattle city owned lot that has been unused and vacant for several years. They are continuing to search for a new permitted site sponsored by a religious organization and plan to move as soon as they have located one.
The camp is home to 25 adults, one toddler, and two dogs. Most of the camp residents are working. I firmly believe that ALL people deserve a safe place to sleep, but believe me when I say: I know this community well and you will never meet a more decent and hardworking group of citizens and neighbors. Seattle has declared a state of emergency around homelessness; right now, there are probably 100 homeless encampments in Seattle. All of them are necessary, under the circumstances, because people have no place else to go.
The camp residents do more than just care for themselves and each other. They also give back to the neighborhood by doing voluntary outreach and resource referral to other homeless people in the area, and deter crime and illegal dumping on their block.
I urge you to contact Mayor Murray and ask him: With so much suffering in the city, why is the city spending tax dollars to sweep an encampment that is sober and well managed, on public land that would not otherwise be in use? Please urge him to stop ALL sweeps until everyone has a safe and legal place to be, but especially not to prioritize sweeping a camp that is doing such a stellar job of providing safety, compassion, dignity, and hope to its members. …
Trout asks anyone with a site to offer to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and asks supporters to contact FAS director Podesta, and/or Mayor Murray and/or City Councilmembers. Just last night, by the way, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold – whose district includes the Myers Way Parcels – included information on the encampment situation in her latest update to constituents. You can read it in full here; this excerpt seems to run contrary to what is happening now:
… Over the months that I have been on the City Council there has been much discussion of how the City should work with people living in encampments. We are a City with very long lines for shelter and years’ long waiting lists for affordable housing and rent assistance. Whether caused by a lack of access to housing or a reluctance to accept help when available, sometime it takes time for outreach workers to help campers. As part of these discussions I have urged the Executive not only to have its work guided by established public health and safety prioritization criteria, but I’ve asked whether outreach workers have the ability to ask for more time if – in their estimation – more time would help get campers access to services. I have been assured that the Executive’s administrative protocols do allow for a “go slow” approach in these instances. As it relates specifically to the Myers Way properties, I have told the Executive that:
I understand that complaints have been made about the encampment and that this obligates the City to accept those complaints;
As it relates to acting on these complaints, I believe health and safety prioritization criteria should be used in determining when to schedule action on this encampment;
I want a report on the outreach and services being provided to the campers with assurances that should outreach workers find that more time will result in better outcomes for the campers that more time will be given;
and I’d like the City, in the interim, to provide garbage services for the campers, consistent with the encampment garbage removal project I proposed in March.
We’ll be checking with her this afternoon during her local office hours as to what she knows about the planned sweep at the site. (Added 3:25 pm: We talked with Councilmember Herbold at SWNSC a short time ago. She said she is aware of the sweep plan but has yet to hear back on the requests she made prior to writing her update, which in turn was before word that the camp had received notice to clear out.)
(back to original report) Meantime, Polly Trout’s e-mail ended with this:
This crisis does not go away when we turn our heads. If we work together and act now, we can fix this. Please join me in doing everything we can to make sure every person has a safe place to sleep tonight. I don’t want to live in a county where this kind of suffering is normalized. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that when women are beaten to death under bridges because nobody cares enough to give them a safe place to sleep we just ignore it, because there is nothing we can do about it. This is NOT inevitable and we CAN end this. But not by chasing homeless people around and destroying their survival gear while public land goes unused behind locked gates. That is not working. If the camp needs to move, let’s all work together to find them a better and legal place to be and then move them there.