By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
There’s room for more people at West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned encampment, Camp Second Chance.
And for those who are there already, the camp finally has a new case manager.
Plus, the long-running question of whether CSC will be sanctioned for a second year will be answered soon, with a promise of “community input” before a decision is made.
Those were three major updates presented Sunday at the Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee‘s monthly meeting, held as usual at Arrowhead Gardens, a few blocks north of the camp, which is at 9701 Myers Way S.
Three committee members were there – Willow Fulton, Cinda Stenger, and Grace Stiller. Also at the front of the room, camp spokesperson David Baum, two reps from camp operator LIHI – volunteer/advocacy manager Josh Castle and new CSC case manager Amy Friedman – and Tom Van Bronkhorst of the city Department of Neighborhoods.
About an equal number of observers/attendees were in the audience, including representatives of Camp Second Chance and other community members.
Baum provided a two-sided one sheet with the stats, including the current number of residents (42, down from 46 last month), saying that included eight people brought into the camp, 13 who departed, some of whom left after just a few days, and they’re not sure why. Of the 42 total “homes” at the camp, eight are tiny houses provided by LIHI, 12 are other micro-homes (described as built from Costco kits), 11 Shelter Logic “super tents,” and 11 regular tents. The potential home sites open at the camp include six “livable vacancies,” three empty platforms, and 10 “open sites” that are just gravel right now.
Baum also presented the list of incident reports and “bars” (people barred from the camp either temporarily or permanently). Four of the six incidents involved drugs or alcohol, and Baum observed that the camp remains “dead serious” about being a drug- and alcohol-free camp. Here’s the sheet:
“The drama never ends,” Baum half-joked, but switched to a serious tone to say he is observing that problematic behavior is being noted and addressed, and “not in a draconian way. … I think it’s working.” Later in the meeting, discussion ensued about some bar situations requiring treatment, and how the people involved are being connected with resources. Among other things, Castle said that there are some rules around non-emergency bars, so that people aren’t just thrown back out into the streets without resources.
In committee members’ reports, Fulton said she had gone to one of the holiday events at the camp and saw the new ShelterLogic “super tents.” She added, “It seems to me that things have been quiet and running well so far, from the neighborhood side,” while also saying that she’s heard some “general and not quite specific” neighborhood concerns. She said that trash has been piling up on Myers Way without a pickup for almost a month, and while it was piled up neatly, it was being torn up by scavengers. Van Bronkhorst said he noticed it too and would bring it to the attention of Seattle Public Utilities, which is accountable for pickup in the area.
Stenger note that a hot-breakfast service had been organized, and that since Alki UCC – with which she also is associated – has raised $21,000 for tiny houses, they want to get busy getting them built. She also is talking with Operation Sack Lunch about providing at least one hot meal weekly to the camp.
Stiller said Bakery Nouveau will be distributing bread and pastries to CSC three times a week. She also is continuing to work on getting grant/stipend money for environmental work at the site that would involve camp residents cleaning up weeds.
From LIHI, Castle said that Friedman had met with campers for the first time on Friday – a “house” is being readied at CSC to serve as her office – and added that “we’re close to hiring a site coordinator.” 10 Shelter Logic tents were built as planned in mid-December, with the help of volunteers from Alki UCC. FareStart provided free Christmas dinner to camps including CSC; other volunteer groups provided meals at the camp during the holidays. Castle also said a donor wants to build an upgraded, covered hand-washing and dish-washing station at the camp.
As for renewing for a second year of city funding/sanctioning, a topic that has come up at previous meetings, LIHI meet with the city last week to go over all the permits for the encampments in which it’s involved. They applied Friday – two days before the deadline – for a second-year permit for CSC. “There is some kind of community-input process,” Castle said, but doesn’t have details on it yet. According to city rep Van Bronkhorst, the Human Service Department will announce the review process soon. “From Neighborhoods’ standpoint, we’ll be advocating for something that’s very transparent.”
Castle said there’s talk about changing the ordinance that has limited encampments to 2 years – that would have to go through the City Council. He said the “tiny house villages” have been “working well” and are transitioning people into permanent housing, and they’re looking for new sites for the camps.
New case manager Friedman said that she understands “a lot of people need assessments” and she expects to start that work on Wednesday. She’s thinking she’ll keep a Sunday-through-Thursday type schedule. She said she’s been doing this kind of work for about two years and loves to be outside – she got her start in this line of work by doing street outreach in Minnesota, where she also worked at a shelter before moving to Seattle last September. She began working at the new Compass Center as a counselor, and then moved to LIHI.
One of the camp’s tiny houses was rendered unusable by mold, it was noted, and Stenger observed that having heat in the tiny houses might have prevented that. Baum said they’re working on an electricity upgrade that would make it possible to have heaters in the on-site homes. (A camp rep clarified that a roofing problem was actually what contributed significantly to the mold trouble.)
Fulton asked Van Bronkhorst about changes in city leadership and how that’s affecting who their points of contact are. She mentioned former director of homelessness George Scarola, for example (who as of December 22nd has a new city position that doesn’t carry that title, with the Department of Finance and Administrative Services). Van Bronkhorst said he doesn’t know whether a new “director” will be appointed by Mayor Jenny Durkan. Is FAS still overseeing the Myers Way Parcels (where the encampment is located)? Yes, said Van Bronkhorst.
Community member Carol wondered if there was any further information about the concerns that preceded the withdrawal of previous CSC operator Patacara amid questions about the privately donated money it received for CSC. Carol said some community members feel they “can’t move on” until that is addressed, and are also concerned about how LIHI will account for privately donated money
Castle said that there was some city money left over when LIHI took over; as for private donations, he said that LIHI is “very well organized” and “when money is donated for something, that’s what it’s going to go for.” He elaborated that when people donate to LIHI, they can stipulate what they want the money to go for – for example, “tiny houses” or something else.
Van Bronkhorst said that Patacara knew when it took the contract that additional money would be required to run the camp, and “we certainly encouraged them to raise funds, but from the city’s perspective, the funds that (the city paid) went to the services that they were contracted to do” (as was originally reported here back when the questions originally arose).
Baum, speaking for the camp, said that to his knowledge there are no plans to pursue any sort of ‘adjudication’ of what did or didn’t happen to money donated to Patacara for C2C. He also said that the camp itself is proceeding with plans to solicit donations itself.
Stenger noted that Alki UCC had donated $6,000 to Patacara for Camp Second Chance, and when Patacara pulled out, what it hadn’t spent was returned, and what had been spent “was fully accounted for.”
As for LIHI, Castle said it’s hiring a fundraising manager for the entire organization, which already has a “fairly large finance department and compliance department,” he noted. “We’re working with governments … and have to be sure we have our stuff together.”
Another community member in the audience asked a question that’s come up just about every month – can people see the camp budget? Castle said he will bring one to the next meeting. “Promise?” asked the community member. “Promise!” Castle said.
COMING UP: Castle said 2-6 am January 26th will be this year’s One Night Count, with people out on the streets counting those who are sleeping unsheltered. Also, February 1st will be Housing/Homelessness Advocacy Day in Olympia and his organization will be sharing a bus to go to Olympia to advocate. Interested in going along? firstname.lastname@example.org
NEXT MEETING: February 4th, likely again at 2 pm at Arrowhead Gardens (9200 2nd SW).