FOLLOWUP: City-authorized encampment on Myers Way gets services, improvements as expansion begins

(WSB photo, taken Friday morning)

By Clifford Cawthon
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

The expansion of Camp Second Chance on Myers Way in southeast West Seattle as a city-authorized encampment has begun.

In the month-plus since an emergency mayoral order created three new authorized encampments including this one, the city has been finalizing a contract with Patacara Community Services to operate the camp, which continues to draw support from residents as well as concerns from the surrounding community, while growing and maturing as a clean-and-sober homeless encampment. (Here’s our coverage of the most recent city-organized meeting about it, on February 1st.)

This week, George Scarola, the city’s director of homelessness, confirmed to WSB that the operating agreement for Camp Second Chance had “a few steps still remain (ing), but the agreement is close.” This process includes permits and agreements as well as a framework that Patacara will operate under while administering the camp in its partnership with the city.

Ahead of the finalization of the agreement, the following improvements have already been made:

*Fence installed
*Lot graveled
*Rodent cleanup
*Trash cleanup with dumpsters
*Improving kitchen sanitation
*Expanding with adequate toilet services

In addition to improving services once the city contract is completed, they will be able to hire a case manager to help incoming tenants of the camp transition into long-term housing. The camp will also install potable-water cisterns to provide clean water on site. Scarola also confirmed that “as it does in the three existing encampments the city will provide … gray-water receptacles, access to electricity for common areas (kitchen, community tent, office, etc.) and platforms to keep tents or tiny homes off the ground … the City will begin paying for [amenities] once the contract is signed. Platforms [for the new modifications] are scheduled to be built over the next few weeks.”

The plan for the three encampments – first announced in December – was considered both a game-changer and a temporary solution until the mayor’s Pathways Home program is implemented: “The goal of Pathways Home is to transform our current homeless resources into an integrated system,” says Scarola, with the ultimate goal of moving more un-sheltered people into secure, long-term housing more quickly.

Polly Trout, executive director of Patacara, told WSB that residents of Camp Second Chance have been doing just that: “All along, about 10% of camp residents have been moving indoors (each) month, which is awesome.”

As of this week, the camp has 20+ residents (in WSB’s last visit it was estimated at 25) and the city plans to allow up to 50 units expected to host 60-70 people. Outreach for additional residents is expected to start tomorrow; this past week, a WSB reader noticed the addition of tents and a fence on the north side of the camp’s site this week (confirmed by the top photo).

None of these improvements have come cheap, however. For the last month, Patacara has been fundraising in order to provide the first month’s operating expenses upfront and has has reached out to private donors; which, Trout said that she was grateful for the generosity that has led them to achieve their goal and operate since April 2016 – first on the grounds of a church in South King County before moving to Myers Way, where they have been – without authorization until now – since last summer. The site is city-owned land that was once proposed to be sold for commercial development; advocates campaigned against that, and the mayor decided not to sell it. That was before the arrival of the camp. Advocates want planning to start in the meantime for the site’s future as parkland, but it is not under Seattle Parks management so far.

Whether for or against the camp, it will be on the site for at least a year, with the prospect of renewal for a second year. Trout is optimistic: “When [Camp Second Chance] first moved in, the neighbors were worried that the camp would make things worse in the neighborhood because there were already a lot of people camping in the greenbelt along Myers Way.” She says some initial skeptics have become supporters. Meantime, Southwest Precinct police have indicated the areas of Myers Way that are not part of the Camp Second Chance site are being, and will be, addressed.

Sweeps of unauthorized encampments were challenged in court, but U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez recently denied the ACLU’s request for a restraining order to stop the sweeping of unauthorized camps that the city deems hazardous. One such camp is “The Field,” an encampment at Royal Brougham and Airport Way S. at the foot of the International District. It was recently announced that it would be cleared and cleaned, due to safety concerns, despite it being originally identified as an alternative to the camp known as “the Jungle” that was cleared last year.

Regarding Myers Way and Camp Second Chance, we’ll continue to follow up on how other issues are addressed, including contamination on the site, where kiln dust was dumped years ago. Meantime, safety concerns come up at just about every regular community meeting where the SW Precinct has representatives to answer questions, most recently at the February West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.

21 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City-authorized encampment on Myers Way gets services, improvements as expansion begins"

  • Cpas March 5, 2017 (1:26 pm)

    So we spend $50 million a year on the homeless and it is still blue tarps and porta potties. Expanding toilet services? – Porta potties are not toilet services, and only three of them – yahoo! I worked construction jobs and hated porta potties; they suck, especially in cold weather and for that matter hot weather. Almost two years after Mayor Murray declared homelessness an emergency, all that has happened is we gave them new blue tarps. Be ashamed Seattle and also where does $50 million go every year to produce this picture? 

    • Kittyno March 5, 2017 (8:08 pm)

      Yeah, I’d like more transparency with 50 million.

    • Ric March 6, 2017 (10:13 am)

      That’s probably why we need 55 more million. Ya know, green tarps.

  • anonyme March 5, 2017 (3:41 pm)

    My job site has a porta potty, no heat or power, and little shelter.  How terrible that my tax dollars don’t provide more luxurious accommodations for others, while I work like a slave to live at just above poverty level.

    • Mike March 5, 2017 (4:29 pm)

      Go back to work and pay your taxes, don’t question the leadership, they don’t want to hear about you. /Snark

      • WsEd March 6, 2017 (12:41 pm)

        As Thomas Sowell, the great African American economist once postulated.  Leadership is easy when you don’t have to live with the impacts of your decisions.  I can’t find the exact quote, but this is close.

  • WestCake March 5, 2017 (3:47 pm)

    Tax incentives to developers to provide low income housing is how other cities solve this problem. These people do not want to be “allowed” to live outside; they want affordable housing.
    This city is bending over backwards letting developers build anywhere because that’s how the tax coffers get filled. I know it’s a novel concept but a state income tax would fill those same coffers. And then you have the leverage to hand out tax incentives to developers, and provide housing for ALL.

    We also would be able to afford things like night time paving for the roads, police patrols to cut down prowling, new trash cans at the parks, the list goes on….

    • Mike March 5, 2017 (4:32 pm)

      Developers here already get huge tax benefits.  They are also incentivized to not add parking.  Some low income housing costs about what my mortgage is.  Thank God I bought my house 13 years ago.

    • Kittyno March 5, 2017 (8:06 pm)

      I think you’re mistaken.   There are tons of tax breaks here for providing affordable housing.  Homeless here is a multifaceted problem.   We’re sent a lot of transient people from other cities–they’re actually given bus tickets at some missions:

      We also have a failing mental health system:

      And we keep driving up minimum wage, meaning people with low entry skill levels are now competing with people with higher skill levels.  If you keep a lower minimum wage, you allow for people with little qualifications to enter the work force.  People have a hard time believing this, but it tends to bear out.

    • John March 5, 2017 (10:13 pm)

      Tax incentives to developers to provide low income housing is how other cities solve this problem, ”   WestCake

      Oh, it’s that easy?

      Please share examples of cities with the homeless problems solved?

      • WsEd March 6, 2017 (12:47 pm)

        Nevada seems to have been very successful in solving part of the problem with their mentally ill resettlement program targeting West Coast Cities.  There are many more, but of course every homeless person in Seattle started out life here if you believe the latest targeted survey that of course was extremely non biased and not conducted by the homelessness cottage industry.  

        I’ve got a nice bridge to show you.

  • iggy March 5, 2017 (4:39 pm)

    Reminds me of  Whack A Mole.  Online dictionary says:  .used with reference to a situation in which attempts to solve a problem are piecemeal or superficial, resulting only in temporary or minor improvement.”

      I was driving downtown on James Street today and see that the sidewalk under I-5 now has a large trash can, and for the first time in years neat and tidy on that block.    The tents on the sidewalk looked sturdy and clean and not unlike those at a Girl Scout Jamboree (I’m being complimentary, not satirical here).  But as soon as we turned to go to the South I-5 on-ramp, the usual trash was blowing around random tents, and the area is still a health-hazard mess.     Can’t believe the City spends millions, and we can’t even keep a small area trash free.  Why only one trash can on the James St. block but none around the corner…….

  • Erithan March 5, 2017 (6:11 pm)

    Anyone else wonder how they plan to “transition” into housing when Somone on ssi/ssdi can’t even afford anything? *sigh*

  • New Thinking Needed March 5, 2017 (9:32 pm)

    I strongly believe the campers should be expected to contribute a small fee for these services because the services are not free.  Even on their SSI benefit they should be expected to contribute. If you get SSI and pay no room & board then your SSI rate is decreased because you are living for free ….living for free is counted as a resource by the Social Security Administration.

    • brian March 6, 2017 (11:23 am)

      God forbid we let people “live for free”.

  • mfg March 6, 2017 (12:17 am)

    As many studies have shown, the biggest problem with stupidity is that the stupid are incapable of understanding how stupid they really are. And no, I’m not talking about the homeless. 

    • WsEd March 6, 2017 (12:50 pm)

      It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect and is a real and measurable effect of cognitive bias.

      IE.  to dumb to know your dumb.

  • Jim P. March 6, 2017 (12:08 pm)

    also where does $50 million go every year to produce this picture? “

    Mostly to “studies”, consultants and to the professional “Homeless Advocates”.  Someone has to pay to attend those conferences held in nice hotels and such.  You certainly can’t attract professionals to “help” if you don’t pay them properly.

    Some of this is pretty lucrative work.  And then there’s always “overhead” and “misc.” to hide where the money goes.

  • Mark March 6, 2017 (12:26 pm)

    $50 M a year, $16,700 per homeless person (3,000 per recent City count).  This corelates to about $1,400 month, apodments rent for $600 to 800 a month.   The beauracracy has grown grown and grown, creating a poverty industrial system the feeds beauracrats.

    • WsEd March 6, 2017 (12:57 pm)

      If they just cut out the middleman and took all of the non drug users and immediately housed them I would be OK with another levy.  But when Nick Hanauer says on one hand “We need to get big money out of politics” and then on the other “We came to the mayor and said, ‘We are throwing down on homelessness,’ ” he said. “We said, ‘We are going to take something big to the ballot.’ ”  “I’m going to donate enough money to that campaign to make sure that we would win. It’s so far below the amount of money that I care about that,” Hanauer added. “It’s not a statewide campaign, so it’s not going to cost $10 million.” it sure sounds like the big money influence of an outsider to me.  Hanauer doesn’t live in Seattle, he is in the Highlands in Shoreline so he won’t be paying the levy.  How wonderfully thoughtful of you Nick to shove another tax down the throats of the middle class that you claim are so important to you.

  • Freetobe March 7, 2017 (9:48 am)

    No one has to be unsheltered. There are programs in place. People choose to be unsheltered, because that is their preference (given their options). When someone has given up- doesn’t want or can’t handle the stress or responsibility of working and paying bills, or cleaning up after themselves- and they don’t want to live within the restraints of assistance programs- they may find it most convenient to camp in the city, with easy access to drugs and like minded society.  This lifestyle is very costly (in many ways) to the city, and I don’t want to pay my taxes to enable that lifestyle.  

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