By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Earlier this month, the scheduled meeting of the community advisory committee for city-sanctioned Camp Second Chance on Myers Way was abruptly postponed.
“Unforeseen circumstances” were blamed. No elaboration at the time – but now we’re learning about change and upheaval behind the scenes.
Patacara Community Services is withdrawing as the camp’s operator/fiscal sponsor, responsible for the $200,000+-a-year city contract.
The camp has been hailed as a model for its drug-and-alcohol-free policies and self-governance.
But Patacara’s executive director Polly Trout says, “The Patacara Board has determined that given that the self-governance process at camp has broken down, and it is no longer a safe place, we do not have the organizational capacity to continue the contract.”
Camp Second Chance’s resident manager and one of its co-founders, Eric Davis, says he was evicted a week ago, and fired from his paid position, after a confrontation with Trout. He says police came to the camp and told him he was trespassing and had to leave. He’s now staying with camp supporters.
Davis said in a phone conversation with WSB that the confrontation followed camp leaders asking Trout at a July 30th meeting about the status of privately donated money that was to pay for more “tiny houses” to be built at the camp – something the city does not fund.
Trout, asked about the circumstances of Davis’s eviction, told WSB via e-mail that “Eric Davis’s employment was terminated because he was failing to uphold the camp’s code of conduct. Several camp residents have been breaking the code of conduct and abusing their power in the camp.” She did not elaborate; Davis said he was falsely accused of offenses including sexual harassment. The camp’s Code of Conduct is linked from the city website here.
Trout added, “I am heartbroken about the whole situation and will be resigning from Patacara as of 9/1.” The Patacara website is now simply a page headed “Under Transition” and lists Trout as executive director through August 31st. In the meantime, she says, the Patacara Board is “working with (the Low Income Housing Institute) and the city and hopes to transfer the contract to LIHI.”
LIHI currently is working with the city in connection with all five of its other sanctioned encampments, as listed here; it’s listed as fiscal sponsor and case-management provider for Nickelsville Ballard, Georgetown Village, Interbay Tent City 5, Licton Springs Village, and Othello Village, but other organizations – Nickelsville or SHARE/WHEEL – are listed as the actual managers of those sites.
Transferring Camp Second Chance to LIHI oversight is not a done deal yet, city Human Services Department spokesperson Meg Olberding told WSB via e-mail: “The City has engaged in one meeting with LIHI to discuss assuming the contract for the rest of the year for the management of the camp. This is based on their demonstrated experience managing five City contracted, permitted encampments over the past 3 years. No firm decisions have been made, but for the stability of the camp, we’d like it to be as soon as possible.”
Asked if the city has reviewed the status of its funding for Camp Second Chance, Olberding said, “The City has found no irregularities with the handling of City funds.” Any questions about the status of money outside the city contract would be up to the Patacara board to look into, she added.
Meantime, Davis says, “My character’s being slandered and I’ve been made homeless.” But he said he is also looking forward to participating in conversations with LIHI about their prospective assumption of the camp contract, as are the CSC supporters who originally contacted us about the situation. He is hopeful he might regain his job as camp manager as part of the change: “Our leadership is not broken.”
Davis and more than 20 others founded Camp Second Chance in April 2016, after breaking off from Tent City 3; CSC originally was hosted on the premises of a South King County church, but when its three months at that site expired in July 2016, it moved to Myers Way (as first reported here, including Trout’s explanation that Patacara had been providing “supportive services”), originally setting up on a private parcel on the east side of the road, then moving to the city-owned Myers Way Parcels on the west side days later. At first, the camp was on that city property without authorization; eventually, the city dropped a plan to sweep the camp and decided to sanction it.
Up until now, Camp Second Chance has been considered by many to be an island of semi-stability amid the unsanctioned camping, including RVs, along Myers Way, though some nearby residents have contended that its presence has been a draw for more campers who don’t want to live by its rules but do want to take advantage of its services. Some involved in this situation wondered if CSC’s drug-and-alcohol-free policy would survive a change in management; city spokesperson Olberding says, “Any operator contracted by the City will be required to maintain a safe environment for residents and the neighboring community.”
CSC had 62 residents as of the July meeting of the Community Advisory Committee, and as noted in the meeting minutes, that was described as being at capacity – with tents on all 50 of the city-provided platforms, which the camp had been hoping to convert to “tiny houses” by fall.