By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While blues musicians performed a benefit concert today (continuing until 6 pm) at Camp Second Chance, the city-sanctioned encampment in southeast West Seattle, its Community Advisory Committee met for the third time, at nearby Arrowhead Gardens.
The concert is raising money for expenses that the city’s $208K/year contract with CSC via Patacara Community Services doesn’t cover – in particular, “tiny houses” that can replace tents on the 50 platforms at the camp’s site just inside the main gates of the city-owned Myers Way Parcels.
Six residential units in all are in various states of completion/construction at CSC, Patacara’s Polly Trout told the advisory committee, including two that could be complete by day’s end today. She told the meeting that they’ve found a (contractor) partner to work with who will be able to get “structures of the same quality that are much cheaper” via wholesale/nonprofit rates.
That means they’ll pay about $1500 per “tiny house” instead of $2500. Their partner also will be supervising production to help them get up and running more quickly. They also will have different levels of construction, such as “with insulation and without insulation,” depending on what donors want to support, Trout said. They’re having volunteer building parties Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am-4 pm.
Speaking of donors, Trout said, Alki UCC has donated $6,000 for the tiny-house project.
The camp is now up to 62 residents, living in tents or tiny houses on their 50 platforms, and they’re “meeting our goal of getting (6 people a month) into housing … that kind of turnover is our goal, and we’ve met our goal for June.”
A committee member asked where they’re going. One is moving into a boarding-house room, $400 a month, which his disability payments will cover; one had a Section 8 voucher but a felony record so it was difficult to find a rental, so CSC’s housing case manager worked to find a place he could move into. They’ve also had a “good track record” with family reunification, Trout said. In some cases, that means a one-way ticket to where they can be with family members. She said the camp’s “must be sober” policy has also helped some people clean up their acts to a point that they can be vouched for.
Discussion also involved transportation in the area and what kind of access campers have into and out of the area via Metro bus routes. Trout said she had received e-mail from the city Department of Neighborhoods – which has been represented at past committee meetings but was not today – asking how they could be more helpful, and transportation issues were top of mind. Advice about various bus routes was shared, and eventually there was some wondering aloud about the possibility of shuttle service – not only for the sanctioned camps here and in Georgetown, but maybe even for the South Park Senior Center (which has a representative on the committee).
As for other camp needs, Trout says they’re still looking for meal donors and also volunteer to help serv as housing advocates to help people find and move into housing.
New at the camp: A second water cistern enabling the camp to receive 1,650 gallons at a time for the same price ($350) currently being paid for delivery of half that every six weeks. Why can’t the city just provide running water? Trout was asked. They’re not willing to, she replied. “Part of the thing that’s going on is political,” she believes, because of neighbors concerned that such things will make the camp ever more permanent, rather than being out in 2018.
“It’s a human right, running water,” countered a camp resident.
“You would think the people who don’t want you there would want it to be clean,” suggested another committee member.
Another suggested that might be one mission of the committee – to advocate for such things. “it’s one thing for the camp to ask for it, it’s another thing for an organized committee to ask.”
“It’s disheartening,” added the resident. “If the naysayers only took time to speak to the people in the camp …”
“And it IS a temporary camp,” added a committee member. “People are moving out all the time.”
One of the two camp residents at the meeting suggested that neighbors who want to “get rid of Camp Second Chance” might consider that the site could subsequently be taken over by unorganized campers who would be more detrimental to the area.
The other one, who spent time in U-District camps too, said she never imagined she’d find herself homeless. “I’m college educated.” She said she would be willing to speak to anyone who’d listen.
The Arrowhead Gardens resident on the committee said the complex had a forum/panel discussion last week with about 60 people present to hear and talk about the camp. “To see that you all” – addressing the residents – “weren’t bumbling drug-addled weirdos.” She said they are worried about the other residents, in RVs and on the slope, and sanitation issues. “There were questions – the negative pieces had to do with pushing back a little bit, ‘are there really no drug addicts?'” at the camp, for example. “Alcohol doesn’t seem to bother (people at the complex).”
That led to a question about whether the camp was home to anyone 55 and older. Trout said she thought about five residents were of Social Security age (62+).
As the meeting went around the table, committee member Aaron Goss, whose bicycle shop is in downtown White Center, talked about the availability of free/low-cost repairs, and also the upcoming bike-share programs with which the city of Seattle is getting involved. Bicycling is a popular form of transportation among campers. A brief discussion of car-share companies followed, though the expense was considered to be a bit high; Trout said there’s a lot of carpooling involved among and for camp residents.
Committee member Grace followed up on something she had mentioned at the June meeting, saying she had applied for a grant to do environmental education and wetlands reconstruction with camp residents and will find out next month whether the application was successful.
Committee member Willow had an update on the trash-pickup problems reported at last meeting – she says those were remedied quickly and that it appears two pickups a week are now happening, with more cans having appeared since the last meeting, too. “We just need to make sure that keeps up and that we in the neighborhood should know the schedules … so we know when to call if it is not happening.” A camp resident wondered about the purpose of the Dumpsters that are along Myers Way near Arrowhead Gardens; those belong to the complex, which has 600 residents, he was told.
The camp resident also mentioned that what’s left of a torn-up campers is still along Myers Way and he’d be willing to help clean it up. Willow mentioned that the city has an illegal-dumping map that can be checked to see if it’s been reported – you can see it here.
Attendees also wondered if they could get Myers Way, aside from CSC, declared an “emphasis area” by the city – as explained here. A camp resident said it’s a shame that some of the people along the road are committing crimes and ruining things for those who are not. Trout said that equity is an issue because low-income neighborhoods wind up shouldering more of the burden of trying to help those living with homelessness, but she also acknowledged that CSC chose this area when it first moved here – without sanction or permission – a year ago, because “Blue collar, more diverse neighborhoods have more compassion for people who are struggling.”
OTHER UPDATES: The camp website‘s in the process of being updated, with old information being removed.
SIDE NOTE: This meeting had the smallest turnout of the three we’ve covered, but representation ranged from CSC residents to the communities of White Center, Highland Park, Top Hat, South Park and Arrowhead Gardens. The meetings are open to all, and will continue to be at 2 pm on the first Sunday of the month at AG’s community room (9200 2nd SW) – next one would be August 6th.