By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While the decision on another year for Camp Second Chance at the Myers Way Parcels is pending, sentiment is swirling about changing the city rules that currently limit encampments to two city-sanctioned years.
That was one of the notable side issues that arose during the monthly meeting of the C2C Community Advisory Committee on Sunday afternoon.
The camp, you might recall, is currently waiting to hear from the city on whether its permit to be at the city-owned Myers Way Parcels will be extended for what the city will consider a “second year,” though the first year didn’t start until the camp had already been there nine months. The one-year-with-one-possible-year-of-renewal was a promise made before the city funding was finalized last year, and it’s the current rule for all of the city’s sanctioned encampments.
When Sunday’s meeting got to open-discussion time, a resident of Arrowhead Gardens – the senior-living complex where the committee meets, a few blocks north of the encampment – asked who “absorbs the expense” if and when the camp has to be relocated.
Josh Castle from camp operator Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) said it would be a combination of the city and LIHI – the city handles operational costs, LIHI handles set-up costs. He added that the cost of moving a camp could run to about $140,000.
“Where’s the logic in that?” the AG resident asked. Castle said that’s why they’re “looking at the ordinance” that currently requires encampments to move after two years in the same spot. Committee member Cinda Stenger from the Westside Interfaith Network said that she also agrees the camp should stay and the ordinance should be changed, ostensibly to remove the limits, and she urged other camp supporters to advocate with the City Council. “It’s outdated,” she declared.
The meeting’s regular city rep, Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods, clarified that indeed, changing the ordinance would be up to councilmembers, but the current decision that’s being made is about – under the ordinance as it exists now – renewing the camp’s permit for another year.
Could decisionmakers regarding the bigger issue attend the CAC meeting? asked the AG resident. Van Bronkhorst said he expected that for one, Councilmember Lisa Herbold likely would attend the meeting if invited (and pointed out that she was at the recent renewal-related meeting at the Joint Training Facility). Another community member asked about the most-effective way to advocate – going to a City Council meeting? Setting up a meeting with a City Councilmember? E-mailing a councilmember? Van Bronkhorst said that e-mail and/or phone calls can be effective, and if you don’t reach a councilmember, you could talk with one of their legislative assistants.
The renewal-related meeting, meantime, was one of the first things to come up at Sunday’s meeting, which had no formal agenda. Committee chair Willow Fulton, a Top Hat-area resident recapped the recent meeting on . She said she was a bit taken aback that city officials didn’t first present “the status of things” before taking public comment (which as you might recall from our coverage, was itself a bit of a change – the city tried to tell people to go mingle with the city staffers and maybe then offer comments at the microphone, but the reaction to that suggestion changed their minds). “Because we’ve had so few community meetings in this area and people are kind of hungry fo that, it was great to have all those people there but people weren’t able to utilize them” as much as she would have liked to have seen.
Other brief updates:
CAMP UPDATE: Currently 54 residents, including 16 women, 38 men, 23 houses, 22 tents, “zero barred people,” no new placements in housing. “The camp is basically running so smooth, you can walk by, stop in, it’s like a regular community, no drama, no noise,” camp manager Eric Davis summarized.
FOOD: Stenger is still working on getting a hot meal weekly for the camp’s Wednesday night meetings, dealing with some “red tape.” … CAC member Grace Stiller says her husband is picking up bread from Bakery Nouveau three times a week for the camp … The camp fed 233 people from outside the camp during March, Davis said.
GARDENS: Stiller is soliciting interest for container gardens to grow food, or maybe even a community garden for campers and other neighbors.
TINY HOUSE: Stenger says 20 or so volunteers built a “tiny house” for the camp last month. “There’s something really powerful about building on site, building in the camp,” seeing the camp “and how well it’s run, how clean it is.” She said they’re “continuing the momentum” and just yesterday laid foundations for seven more tiny houses that they’re hoping to build in the months ahead. They’re committing to smoke alarms and an electric heater in each tiny house, as soon as a power connection is available; that gets away from propane, which has exhaust and other dangers, including moisture that leads to mold and mildew.
LIHI UPDATE: Castle said they’ve hired a new case manager (the previous one left after a short time), Richard Horne, who’s been working at LIHI’s Licton Springs Village, where he’s been “very successful,” Castle said. Horne will be at the next CAC meeting.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Committee member Aaron Garcia from the White Center Community Development Association says a community group continues meeting to talk about the upcoming affordable housing and more project at the White Center Food Bank/former Public Health (currently Mary’s Place shelter) site at 8th and 108th. They’re hoping to have representation on the group with “people who have experience with homelessness.”
CLEANUP: Garcia hopes that Myers Way will be part of the WCCDA’s upcoming spring clean project, which will be rebranded ReFresh this year.
TRASH: Fulton says she’s seen a lot more trash piled up in the pickup areas along Myers Way, which is a partly good sign, but would still like to see containers. She says she’s observed the pickups happening at least twice a week.
CITY UPDATE:Human Services Department will post the renewal decision (and a summary of the comments) on the city’s website once it’s been made.
MEETING MINUTES: Fulton said the notes from past meetings are all now caught up online, and from hereon out they will live up to their commitment for notes being posted “within 10 business days of (each) meeting.”
OTHER COMMUNITY QUESTIONS: In addition to the ordinance discussion as reported above – first with questions was a camp representative said that there’s a problem with the LIHI corporate account with U-Haul, in getting propane for the camp. They also need to get housing for an expectant couple at the camp. LIHI’s Castle responded by asking that they work closely with their staffer who works on the propane accounts for camps – there’s some kind of credit-card issue. Regarding the couple, “they’re at the top of the list,” Castle said, but getting people into housing is just difficult. The camp rep also asked about transparency from LIHI; Davis had noted that LIHI hadn’t had an on-site meeting with campers for a few months. Castle said the new case manager should be able to set one up. … Another camp resident noted that their website is now up and running at campsecondchance.org … A resident from 1st Avenue South, some distance south of the camp, talked about a recent break-in.
PARTY: Camp resident Krystle Peterson said the public is invited to an anniversary party at the camp, noon-8 pm April 14th, potluck with entertainment and tours.
The Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee meets monthly, usually the first Sunday, 2 pm, at Arrowhead Gardens’ community room (9200 2nd SW) – next meeting will be May 6th.