By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What didn’t happen at last night’s city-convened meeting about Camp Second Chance‘s permit renewal was nearly as notable as what did.
At the start of the meeting at the Joint Training Facility, a few blocks north of the encampment, Lisa Gustaveson from the city Human Services Department tried to tell those who had gathered that they should spend the first half-hour or so talking one-on-one with city reps, instead of speaking at a microphone for all to hear.
This is often an unpopular tactic with meeting attendees, as many would like to hear what everyone has to say, and would like everyone to hear what they themselves have to say. So Gustaveson quickly got – and quickly acknowledged – a visible “sorry, but no” reaction, and changed the plan. Our video begins where the testimony started a few minutes after that announcement:
Also of note: You might recognize the man in a blue shirt who served as the microphone minder, someone with a very different role last time the JTF saw a city meeting about Camp Second Chance, George Scarola, hired by former Mayor Ed Murray as “director of homelessness,” still with the city but not with that title. The only city officials at the table at the head of the room – making it clear they were just there to listen – were Gustaveson and, also from HSD, Sola Plumacher.
They weren’t the only city reps among the ~60 or so people in the room, though. Others included City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who took the microphone before the meeting was over, and staffers by easels at the back of the room. But the most memorable speakers were C2C residents and neighbors. Both supporters and opponents of the permit renewal spoke thoughtfully – as contentious as the issue of homelessness and what to do about it can be, this was not a contentious meeting.
After the jump, short highlights of what each of the 27 speakers said (note that these are not transcriptions – please watch/listen to the video to hear the entirety of what each person said), and what happens next:
*Aaron Garcia, who is on the Community Advisory Committee for the camp (whose meetings we cover each month), said it’s done a great job. He’s concerned about the illegal camping on the other side of Myers Way casting a negative light on C2C.
*Charlie Omana, chair of the Highland Park Action Committee, pointed out that this area has hosted multiple encampments in recent years and other areas of the city should do their share.
*Rebecca, C2C resident, said “the camp has offered me a chance at stability” and that she now has a full-time job.
*Stacy, camp supporter, also voiced concern about those illegally camping outside and how that reflects on C2C. She says “moving would be a hardship” for those at the camp who are “just getting on their feet.”
*Jack, C2C resident, who said he became homeless while struggling with debt. (Later, he spoke again, saying that C2C is not really a camp – it’s something more.)
*Diane Radischat, Arrowhead Gardens (nearby complex) resident and C2C supporter who volunteers to assist the camp and believes it should remain, though she also is concerned about the “mess” elsewhere along Myers Way. If the camp is closed, where are its residents going to go?
*Randy, C2C resident who said it’s the “safest place” she’s been while struggling with homelessness.
*Pat Lemoine, who lives on Myers Way, says city has turned it into a “human dumping ground” and says C2C is a magnet for the illegal campers nearby, who have his neighborhood “liv(ing) in terror.” (He distributed a map showing the “dumping ground,” and a document with the plan he says would address the problem, which he has circulated previously.) Later he spoke again, suggesting that the camp be moved to a large empty spot by Gates Foundation headquarters downtown.
*Carol, who also lives on Myers Way, says this is a public health crisis letting “sick, desperate people go untreated and unhoused” and says the city is not following the recommendations of the Poppe Report. She also spoke later with questions that she said neighbors want answered, which she e-mailed us:
1 ) Neighbors have been asking about the financial structures of CSCAC, CSC, LIHI, & related parties.. How many are volunteers, paid employees & where can we regularly view & monitor these numbers ?
2 ) Has the city ever ordered a financial / outcome based comparison of outdoor sanctioned encampment models vs indoor low barrier 24/7 with built in wrap around services models like Mary’s Place ?
Also of today… We are missing the minutes from four of the last CSCAC meetings from the seattle.gov site. December 2017, January, February & March 2018 !
3) Neighbors are also asking for the CSC housing statistics & if outdoor managed encampments are even a good idea ?
4 ) Why did Seattle’s former Mayor Ed Murray think it was a good idea to ask the vulnerable sober people from CSC to live outdoors in the Myers Parcels… Directly across the street from multiple known, unsanctioned encampments of out of control addicts on the street in vehicles & in our woods ? Or was this someone else’s idea from our community ? ; (
5 ) Why didn’t Seattle embrace the advice given in Poppe Report in 2015 & are they ever going to ?
6 ) What are the official future plans for Myers Parcels ?
7 ) What is the official report on various toxins being dumped into the JTF into their potable drinking water source and or the surrounding wetlands on the westside of Myers Way in fall of 2017 ?
7 b ) Did the EPA get involved if so was there a fine incurred & what was that amount ?
7 c ) And is that why that fencing went up & RVs were finally removed in fall of 2017 ?
8 ) Is anyone following up on the misappropriations of the donated funds to Patacara & what where the total amount ?
8 b ) Who is overseeing the nonprofits who do business with sanctioned encampments ?
8 c ) If we don’t have any real oversight besides the AG / state attorney… What is stopping any of these non-profits from misappropriating funds from our most vulnerable homeless encampments & charity groups ? If we don’t have answers to these questions.. and we continue cobble together unproven systems with no oversight… It starts to look like all agencies involved are part of the Homeless Industrial Complex HIC.
We can’t continue to vote blindly with our hearts with no proof that these experiments are even working. It’s not fair to prolong the agony of entire groups of people in desperate need of integration back into society. Right now it looks like Seattle is asking for our input with no real data.
(Editor’s note: Some of the missing minutes have been added to the city page for C2C in the past few days.)
*Giovanni said he was a C2C resident for less than 90 days. He urged those present to “think with your head, act with your heart.”
*Marianne McCord voiced questions about C2C operations and thinks city should provide numbers monthly? She wants neighbors to have services
*Ben Calot, a nearby resident, said the people at C2C deserve better but that the city is ignoring Poppe report and needs to recognize that “encampments don’t work” and are “substandard housing.” He says C2C residents need to participate in the local neighborhood by reporting crime when they see/hear it, etc.
*Michelle, a C2C resident, said that its drug-and-alcohol-free status enables her to stay sober.
*Ron, a local business operator who described himself as formerly homeless, said the camp is a great place.
*Christopher, a camp supporter, says he is a former ironworker who has been homeless for four years because of an injury.
*Mary Fleck of the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, which had helped advocate for the city to keep the Myers Way Parcels as greenspace before the encampment moved in, says C2C residents have been good neighbors but the city is letting everyone down by allowing the nearby spaces to be trashed and polluted.
*Kim said she is a counselor who is working at C2C several times a week and trying to help those “across the street,” while noting that most are single adults and it is very hard to find them housing.
*City Councilmember Lisa Herbold refuted the contentions that the city is not implementing recommendations of the Poppe Report. She also said she agreed that HPAC needs to have its concerns answered including that “housed neighbors” need to “know how best to troubleshoot.” And she agreed that it is time for official protocols on how the “jurisdictional issues” can be addressed regarding the city-and-state-owned area beset with trash and illegal camping across Myers Way. She also said she is “humbled” to hear the stories of camp residents.
*Asia, a C2C resident, said she is from Brooklyn, where there are no comparable resources, and that the camp is “an amazing place” where she is getting support, as a recovering heroin addict, and added that she is working fulltime.
*George is a C2C resident who said he became homeless starting with his car breaking down.
*David Baum, who has volunteered to do office work and more for C2C, wanted to single out “an extraordinary individual,” C2C co-founder and resident manager Eric Davis (who had been evicted from the camp by its original city-contracted operator Patacara Community Services but has since returned). Baum called Davis “a wise and powerful man.”
*Crystal, a C2C resident, also spoke in support of staying.
*Two subsequent speakers who support the camp, including bookkeeper Chris, said that moving the camp would be costly.
*Willow Fulton, chair of the Community Advisory Committee and Myers Way-area resident, said she supports renewing the permit.
*Steve Buckminster said he is associated with a new construction-industry charity seeking to teach skills to homeless people and thinks C2C could be a prototype campus.
*Miriam, a neighbor, wondered if there is a halfway measure between a year of permit renewal and no time extension. Perhaps six months, with conditions?
The testimony totaled about an hour.
WHAT’S NEXT: The city is continuing to take comments through April 5th. Again, what it’s considering is another year of allowing C2C to be on this spot – city rules say two years maximum, and as some point out, since C2C first occupied the space without authorization in summer 2016, it’s already going on two years; the city has not addressed that point.
If you have comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (with Myers Way in the subject line) and/or call 206-727-8496. The city says that once a decision is made on renewal, it will be posted on its website, seattle.gov/homelessness.