By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The second meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for city-sanctioned Camp Second Chance brought more neighbors who wanted to expand the discussion to concerns along Myers Way outside the encampment.
More than 25 people gathered at the camp for the meeting last Sunday (note that this was one day before a man was beaten to death at an unrelated unauthorized encampment across Myers and some blocks to the south, so that incident is not part of this report). As of the meeting day, camp management said, they had 55 residents.
Those who gathered for the meeting also included camp residents and staffers, committee members, and representatives of groups such as Seattle Green Spaces Coalition that worked to convince the city not to sell the Myers Way Parcels, where the camp set up last year, months before receiving city authorization and funding. Also there, Tom Van Bronkhorst from the city Department of Neighborhoods and independent videographer Barry White, who said he was recording the meeting as part of a plan “to tell the story of the camp.”
Here’s what attendees heard and said:
CAMP UPDATES/NEEDS: Camp manager Eric Davis said they’ve been getting ready for more “microhouses” – 48 platforms up, two more to go, another house being delivered later in the week, a Mark Huber pod – “he’s been making tiny houses for other camps,” said Polly Trout from camp operator Patacara Community Services, but these have been requested to be slightly larger, 8 x 12. The next one to arrive was to be the first resident unit (the first one is a staff office). Donors who are funding these can choose between funding the “Costco kit” and “Mark Huber pod.” Trout was asked how the fundraising is going, since the city is not funding tiny houses or tents, just the platforms. She said 3 Costco kits had been donated and delivered but not set up – additional materials are needed such as shingles, pier blocks, paints, subfloor. “We have a very small staff,” three including her, Davis, and their new housing case manager. She said, “We need a project manager who can coordinate volunteers and building supplies” to get the tiny houses built.
Currently, everyone’s living in tents, and no, those don’t have electricity, Trout confirmed in response to a question. She continued updates: “Our gray-water catchment bin has been purchased and delivered,” and will be set up with hot-water sinks for dishes, in the month ahead. “The infrastructure is mostly the same since the committee was here last month.” They’ve added a donation tent and two dorm tents – men and women – for overflow or people who “need a safe place for a day or two.” Hiring Simon Stephens as housing case manager was the big news. ” He has been catching up on paperwork and is also helping people find services, food stamps, Section 8 vouchers. Trout added, “We’re recruiting volunteers to help Simon as housing advocates” – a lot of research is required.
Davis said 4 people became housed in the previous week. Trout agreed that it would be good to have stats each time on who left the camp for housing or for other reasons.
She continued that there’s a meal-donor calendar up now on the Patacara website. “We need more food, so we are inviting community groups to donate a meal.”
Other needs? They’re having a July 2nd fundraising concert and that needs food; anyone who would like to bring food so it can be a community potluck would be welcome. Willow Fulton of the advisory committee, a Top Hat resident, said volunteers are working to update the camp website.
Concerns? The committee representative from the nearby senior-housing complex Arrowhead Gardens said that people are concerned about trash cropping up again on Myers Way, and an increased number of RVs.
Nearby resident Ben Calot said SPD told residents that while RV residents are not being pointed this way, they’re winding up here as a consequence of sweeps elsewhere. (As reported here, an unauthorized RV camp off 2nd SW was cleared days earlier.)
Calot said that the area had mostly cleared out before Camp Second Chance moved in but when the camp showed up last summer, many others showed up. “While Camp Second Chance doesn’t directly cause problems, it attracts others who do.”
Trout countered, “For the record, I don’t believe any of that is true.”
Calot contended that the “southern forest” had been largely emptied out but it “filled right back up” because of a perception that “it’s OK to camp in this area.”
Fulton said she wanted to keep the concerns to those specifically involving the camp itself. She referred to the most-recent meeting with city and county reps (WSB coverage here) and acknowledged that “other activity” in the area “needs to be managed better than it is” if CSC is to be successful. “Having it be a clean and safe area … whether or not there’s people there or not… and we need to continue to ask for help with that. … As the Advisory Council, maybe we can put together a letter to [city of Seattle homelessness director] George Scarola and ask for another meeting.”
Calot said the dumpsters are overflowing outside the camp; Trout said that she has requested increased pickup (which the city had said would be available if needed) and “we just grew very fast.”
The other pile of trash bags is from people outside the camp, and the city promised better pickup for that too but it’s not happening.
Neighbor Fred said that other added services such as increased patrols would be important too.
Neighbor Carol also said there is a jurisdictional conflict in the area and “the people in the woods are taking advantage of that.” She then asked what the money from the July 2nd benefit would be used for.
Trout said that fundraising goals of the camp right now are focused on what the city doesn’t fund:
*Client assistance including moving assistance, application fees for housing
*Bus tickets for people who have someplace they can be reunited with family
Fulton brought it back to advisory-committee concerns.
Advisory committee member and White Center business owner Aaron Goss said that there’ll always be homeless people so we have to stop evicting them. “I think this is great, a transitionary place where people can get a hand up, and it’s a lot cheaper than (other alternatives) … Some of the problems, such as trash,” can be solved. “We can do this … there’s a lot of money in this city, more than you know … Amazon money (etc.) … where’s that money going? … The role of government is to take care of people, not just policing them.”
Committee member Grace had another idea about money – seeking county grants tied to stormwater management and runoff. Trout said it sounded promising except that the camp is supposed to stay in its fenced-in area.
Committee member Aaron Garcia from the White Center Community Development Association mentioned his organization’s successful Spring Clean and suggested there could be one in the camp area next year. Trout invited him to talk with Davis so the camp could consider the idea.
Committee member Cinda wanted to know more about the “dorm space.” They have cots, said Davis. “If a person comes by in the middle of the night and needs somewhere to go and doesn’t really want to be part of the camp, we’ll take them in.” They can sleep, charge their phones, have breakfast, and then have to be out by 8 … or in some cases they’ve brought in a few new campers this way. Trout added, “They have to show up sober and follow the code of conduct.”
Davis said that while the Union Gospel Mission van was visiting recently, someone who was lost in the area saw it and pulled over to ask someone to call for help, for an ambulance.
Talk turned to concerns about the environment and natural areas around the camp. Seattle Public Utilities had hosted a tour in late April at the SGSC’s request, with Councilmember Lisa Herbold among the dozen-plus participants. The discussion included stormwater outflow areas. As for whether any spcific action items ensued – it was primarily to make contacts, “know who’s in charge of what.” Mary Fleck from SGSC said SPU will “entertain a proposal” to do restoration work “in conjunction with the camp and anyone else” interested. She added that camp residents are invited to participate in the planning. And she said there should be a chance to talk about what’s in the area – the wetlands nearby, where the birds and frogs are heard.
Questions: Where’s the gray water going from the new catchment basin? The Honey Bucket people will take it away, said Trout.
Operational issues followed, such as who was keeping track of committee attendance, and what would happen with meeting notes, which apparently are to be posted somewhere on the city website. Van Bronkhorst said it would be ideal if approved notes were available within a week and a half. There was a suggestion that the city pay for someone to record and transcribe the meetings.
Committee member Garcia wondered if minutes from camp meetings and decisionmaking were available anywhere. Trout said that hadn’t been done because some confidential matters were discussed. But the camp’s board could talk about changing that. “The internal problems, we don’t put that out,” said Davis, but they could look at a public record of results of decisions.
What about posting the camp’s budget and expense report? Trout was asked. Since the meetings are on the first Sundays, her bookkeeper hadn’t finished the month yet, she said, but was about to. Meantime, you can e-mail her to ask for that information and/or to get on the newsletter list – her address is on this page of the Patacara website.
As the meeting wrapped, one camp resident, Chris, offered an observation: The city doesn’t “seem to be doing a lot to provide low-income housing.” He said he had been working on construction-cleanup jobs and so much of what he had been working on is ground-floor retail with expensive apartments above: “I don’t see low-income housing being built, it’s not happening.”
NEXT MEETING: They’re continuing to be held on the first Sundays of the month – but changing the time to 2-4 so they can be at the nearby senior-living complex Arrowhead Gardens, where the room is available – “they’re our neighbors,” noted Trout. So that means the next meeting will be on July 2nd. Trout also pointed out that’s the same day the benefit concert will be happening at the camp noon-6 pm.