By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
No word yet on the city’s decision about another year for Camp Second Chance at the Myers Way Parcels.
That was one headline from this afternoon’s meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned encampment.
The other: Camp operator LIHI‘s new case manager Richard Horne has been on the job two weeks, and he has placed his first two campers in housing, though it was quite a drama. He also stressed to community members who wanted to complain about city homelessness-related policies and practices that he is about people, like the two he placed.
CAMP OPERATIONS UPDATE: “It’s been a very productive month,” said Eric Davis, C2C’s resident manager.
He said 52 people are living there right now – 16 women and 36 men, including four new arrivals. The camp now has more “tiny houses” than tents – 23 houses, 22 tents, and 8 more houses are nearly completed thanks to Alki UCC. During the month, Davis added, C2C served food to 141 people who live outside the camp who came up to its gate. Security report: 1 person barred, 1 person given a 60-day exclusion and will have to complete inpatient treatment before returning, 3 others booted for 60 days for “failure to comply with the security-duties requirementfor a second time; all three have lived here before and left twice because of the same reason.” No one was placed in housing in April.
LIHI UPDATE: LIHI’s Josh Castle said his organization is reviewing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that’s been drafted by CSC to govern their relationship.
Horne said that he and Davis identified the most vulnerable people at the camp when he started; an expectant couple were at the top of the list. She has since given birth. They made permanent housing arrangements through a ministry in Tacoma. LIHI has a funding stream called Street to Homes and it cost $2,600 to place the couple The state would have taken the baby if the couple had no housing, so “we rammed it through,” Horne said. And they have since moved in. Horne said the camp also has three elderly residents with “severe mental health issues.” He explained the Homeless Management Information System and how it’s part of his job to assess everyone in the camp – a score is generated for each person, 1 least vulnerable to 18 most; the two elderly people scored 16, so they are working to move them on ASAP – checking insurance, etc. He urged community members to let him know about any resources that might help people like that.
Later, Horne said he had previously worked at the low-barrier Licton Springs encampment. This is a different place, he said. They’re having six people at C2C apply for jobs at LIHI, for example. “These people [C2C campers] want to work!” he explained. “People are in my office every day” talking about resumes and applications. He says he is confident “we can produce some extremely positive results.”
CITY UPDATE: Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods said he had nothing to report. He was asked about the situation on the other side of Myers Way; he said he had observed what looked like one illegal dumping site, one RV, and not much else. He said he hasn’t had any updates on the Navigation Team on their efforts at the site since the last cleanups (we covered two in April). He was also asked about the status of the extension for the camp permit extension – which would be the second year as a sanctioned encampment, though the camp has been at Myers Way for almost two years already, arriving originally in summer 2016 without authorization. He said the city Human Services Department – which is accountable for homelessness-related matters – is reviewing the comments that were made about proposed renewal, but as far as he knows have not reached a decision or made an announcement. LIHI’s Castle later said that other camps are going through reviews and he expects multiple decisions will be announced all at once – but as for a timetable, all they can speculate is “soon.”
COMMITTEE UPDATES: Grace Stiller said the CAC had to delay placement of flower planters at the tiny houses. Also, chair Willow Fulton has started a new mailing list via MailChimp software. (Fulton was absent today, as were committee members Aaron Garcia and Cinda Stenger.)
MORE ON THE MOU: We asked for more details about the MOU that the camp and LIHI are working out. Reply: It will include who’s accountable for what at the camp, what’s been working – for example, Davis’s position as resident manager “is a time-consuming one but it’s necessary” – transparency on where the money’s going, how it’s been spent, and other such matters.
Where will it be posted? Castle said they could bring copies to the meeting once it’s been finalized.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS: Community member and self-described “friend of the camp” David Baum said that assuming the city’s rules stay what they are, planning for a potential move should start soon- “since we’re already almost halfway through 2018.” He said the MOU “should be executed and formulated toward a collaborative effort … to move the camp when the time comes.” Baum also said that in researching camps’ history, he has an appreciation for the depth of experience and resources that LIHI brings to C2C. “It’s impressive.” He noted that the contract with the city for 2018 is already in force, as of mid-March, through year’s end – and that it’s a contract for reimbursement.
Neighbor Carol resurfaced concerns including the city’s unsuccessful homelessness-related policies and Myers Way residents’ contention that while C2C itself may be well-run, its presence is a magnet for unauthorized camping and other undesirable activities nearby.
Horne countered that he’s been doing this work for 22 years and he’s “seen a lot of things …never lose sight of why we are here … this is about the people. … When you are looking at a computer and spreadsheets and budgets … and you are looking at a pregnant heroin addict in your office … those are different things. … It’s going to take all of us to make an impact in this crisis. But this is about people.”
Community advocate Liz Giba said that she had a rebuttal for that – the city and county haven’t provided enough affordable housing. She mentioned Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in other jurisdictions. “So let’s work together” on that, she said.
Horne insisted, “What we’re seeing right now is the absolute byproduct of the economy.” The “robust economy” is driving out-of-reach housing prices, and yes, there’s politics, but “when it’s 6:45 am and somebody is in my office crying to me” after being strung-out for three days, “my only question is, how to help this person?”
Giba said she’s in agreement – the city/county policies are a failure. Horne said he wasn’t disputing that, but reiterated that they have to help people and need to be able to aim resources at them in the moment. “We have to be able to help people.” He again told the story of the new parents. “You never lose sight of the fact that it’s about people – you can debate policy, and (that has its place) … but when you look at your clients, they’re looking at you, how can you help me?”
Carol noted at that point that people on Myers Way are unofficial first responders too – she and her partner, for example, have called 911 multiple times weekly for people possibly overdosed or otherwise passed out in their driveway. She said she looks at the big picture because her calling is as a healer. She thinks that livable wages would help people help themselves.”It’s a battle, it’s a war … we need to treat this like the health emergency it is, mental health, physical health …”
A C2C board member asked how the couple placed in housing is going to be able to sustain it. Horne replied that while Street to Homes covered their moving costs; the Tacoma program they moved into will cover their rent, $500 a month for a room in a house with other families. For how long? asked CAC member Judi Carr. “Up to two years,” Horne said. He added that the program they’ve moved into will give them a “level playing field to move forward … if we can have one family at a time move forward,” that’s progress.
NEXT MEETING: The CAC will continue to meet first Sundays, 2 pm, at the Arrowhead Gardens (9200 2nd SW) community room a few blocks north of C2C.