By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Quiet month at Camp Second Chance – the city-sanctioned/funded encampment at 9701 Myers Way S. – but not so quiet in the pockets of unauthorized camping across the road.
Complaints about camping in the woods on the other side of Myers Way resurfaced toward the end of this month’s meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for Camp Second Chance, held Sunday afternoon at nearby Arrowhead Gardens.
Also during the meeting, one of the reps from the camp’s operator, the Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI), suggested the committee and other community members put pressure on the city to provide a daily meal for the campers. Other updates ranged from budgeting to trash pickup.
First – here’s who was at the front of the room for the meeting, held on an afternoon when much attention was on a certain sports event instead: Two committee members, nearby resident Willow Fulton and White Center Community Development Association‘s Aaron Garcia; Josh Castle and Amy Friedman from LIHI; camp volunteer info-presenter David Baum; city Department of Neighborhoods rep Tom Van Bronkhorst. Those in attendance included an Arrowhead Gardens resident, two C2C board members, Liz Giba and Pat Price from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, and neighborhood advocate Carol.
CAMP STATS AND STATUS: As he’s done for the past few meetings, Baum presented a summary of the camp’s status:
-50 residents as of end of January, including 11 couples, in 41 total homes (structures or tents); that’s up from 42 a month earlier
-Very quiet month, “only one major incident during January” – a permanent bar (camp expulsion) on the 15th, when a camper who’d been there less than two weeks, with two small dogs, was discovered with the tent in such filthy conditions it was unusable; she was asked to leave
-One 24-hour bar, one three-day bar, related to people who hadn’t signed up to work security shifts
-Coordinator positions are filled, and “the kitchen coordinator is doing a magnificent job”
Friedman, introduced last month as C2C’s new case manager, said she’s getting to know everyone in the camp. One person will be moving out, having signed papers for “more stable permanent housing.” She’s working to connect to more community resources, including Neighborhood House, which has employment-readiness programs and a location next to Greenbridge Library – they came to speak at a camp meeting and got people signed up.
Castle said the city’s commitment to “build more tiny-house villages” means it’s time for LIHI to bring on more people to work on that, including a fundraising manager. She’ll start next week. They’re also hiring another project manager to work to get more tiny houses built, at this camp and others LIHI is involved with. He brought budget info for everyone who’s been asking – here’s the sheet he handed out:
In response to questions later in the meeting, Castle said these are projected costs – up from $220,000 the previous year – and he explained that “overhead allocation” is the costs of services they provide to set up the camp, do accounting, etc.
Van Bronkhorst said that he had followed up on last month’s report of garbage-pickup delays along Myers Way; Seattle Public Utilities told him they had changed contractors recently and went out for a look and realized “the new system they had developed wasn’t quite working out” so they reverted to what they’d been doing before, and the previous contractors. They’re picking up three times a week. He noticed what appears to be an illegal dumping – from a remodeling project, it appeared – nearby, not related to the camp, and will be reporting it.
Fulton noted there was some law-enforcement-helicopter activity in the area in recent nights but that it wasn’t related to the camp. (Having heard some of it on the scanner, we can corroborate.)
Garcia noted the WCCDA’s work on redeveloping the White Center Food Bank/King County Public Health (currently used as a Mary’s Place shelter) site. The organization also has interns working on digital storytelling.
There was an update about insulating some of the structures already on site – volunteers were going to get going and then discovered that there were problems with the structures “beyond the expertise of the (volunteers) we could muster,” Baum explained. So now the repairs and retrofitting “are being folded into the (LIHI) infrastructure plan … that will play out over a longer period of time.” The problems were from structures prior to LIHI’s involvement, he added. How much longer? asked NHUAC’s Giba. Baum said he didn’t know.
Speaking of camp conditions, Castle noted at that point that it’s “inhumane that the camp doesn’t have a daily meal funded by the city” and is hoping the committee and other community members will advocate with the city to fund this. Fulton said she will take it up with committee members to see if they want to push for that.
Community concerns/questions not included above:
What’s the status of letting the camp stay for a second year? This was addressed in our preview report published on Friday. Van Bronkhorst said essentially the same thing – the Human Services Department is working on the process.
What’s the status of the contract for LIHI for 2018? (HSD told WSB this week it should be settled this month.) Castle replied at the meeting that while he doesn’t know exactly where the process is, “it should be soon.”
Regarding the 2017 contract with LIHI, which we published on Friday after obtaining from HSD, Giba asked if the contract with original camp operator Patacara had the same clause about donations to the camp being the property of LIHI. Van Bronkhorst said he will look into it.
Giba also invited LIHI to come to the next NHUAC meeting (first Thursdays, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ).
A camp board member asked about bus tickets for C2C, which he said hasn’t had any for campers since December. “They’re kind of vital just taking care of your basic needs,” he said, and most encampments get them. Friedman said she has been working on that – at least for case-management-related matters. Castle said that “bus tickets are in the budget” and he will find out the overall status. Fulton said she hoped there could be a better process for these kinds of needs to be brought up other than waiting for the advisory committee’s monthly meeting. Castle agreed it should be simpler and should be a case-management function so that people could get bus tickets to go to appointments, looking for work, etc.
Asked about personnel plans, Castle said they hadn’t yet decided if they were going to provide a part-time site coordinator or “do something different” with what would be funding for that position.
Fulton noted that some other communities in the country have dealt with hepatitis outbreaks related to hygiene challenges. While there are no outbreak reports here, she wondered about access to vaccines, maybe through a medical van. A camp board member mentioned that the “medical van” had been to the camp twice and offered vaccines including hepatitis A and flu. Baum mentioned that his observations show C2C is very clean – the portapotties are washed out twice daily, there’s hand sanitizer everywhere, and other procedures and precautions are followed.
When concerns were brought up about the people living in unauthorized camps on state land across the street – camps whose unkempt conditions are visible from Highway 509 as well as Myers Way – Giba asked Van Bronkhorst if the city could “please ask the state to come and take a look” at what’s happening over there. He said he has “reported it before” but “it hasn’t risen to a point of being violent or dangerous … compared to some of the other encampments” and then promised to “bring it up again.”
Nearby resident Carol said they want a meeting with Seattle’s new Mayor Jenny Durkan. Van Bronkhorst said he would bring that up too. And he said that Deputy Mayor David Moseley has been identified as a lead on homelessness-related issues, suggesting that residents contact him directly. (His contact info is here.)
Fulton said she agreed this needs continued attention, maybe also from City Councilmember Lisa Herbold as well as from the mayor.
And with that, the meeting wrapped up after an hour. The next one is set for 2 pm March 4th at Arrowhead Gardens (9200 2nd SW).