By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With a new case manager on the job, housing placements from West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned encampment have increased dramatically.
That was part of the information shared at the monthly Camp Second Chance (C2C) Community Advisory Committee meeting on Sunday.
The city’s permit-renewal decision still hasn’t been announced – technically for a second year at the city-owned Myers Way Parcels, though it’s been almost two years already since the camp moved there in July 2016, initially without authorization. But it’s apparently imminent.
Present for Sunday afternoon’s meeting at Arrowhead Gardens, a few blocks north of C2C, were committee chair Willow Fulton, members Cinda Stenger and Aaron Garcia, C2C manager Eric Davis, LIHI’s Josh Castle and Richard Horne (C2C’s new case manager), and city rep Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods.
FIRST, QUICK UPDATES: Fulton said things have been “fairly quiet” with the camp so far as she’s aware; she mentioned she has donated dairy crates and other material available for a camp gardening project that’s long been in the works. She also said a “community member” had messaged her with a question about the mayor possibly committing extra support to a new encampment elsewhere that’s for women and wondering if that would be available for C2C because it has female residents too.
Stenger said Alki UCC continues to donate material for tiny houses and there’s talk of raising money to put up another 30 tiny houses.
Horne said 7 people from C2C have exited to housing in 30 days. “We’re finding that a lot of people want to go south, for various reasons.” (Later, asked for more details on the 7 people who found housing,he said that 2 were the couple, new parents, described at last month’s meeting. Moving them cost $2,600 – moving is expensive, he noted, and most don’t have the resources to meet the cost. LIHI paid first, last, and security deposit for everyone who’s been housed.)
Garcia noted that the new Southside housing development, with 298 affordable units, in Top Hat is “coming online soon.”
Castle had an update on the Memorandum of Understanding between LIHI and C2C, mentioned last month; a meeting is scheduled Wednesday at LIHI to go over it, and then they’ll meet with camp reps. He mentioned Vulcan helping build 30 tiny houses for LIHI recently; they were taken to a camp that’s being put up at 18th/Yesler. LIHI also finally has a warehouse to facilitate the tiny-house building process.
Van Bronkhorst said the renewal decision for C2C is expected this week.
CAMP MANAGER’S UPDATE: Davis said C2C currently has 48 residents – 13 women, 35 men – 23 houses, 22 tents, 8 more houses “nearly complete” with Alki UCC’s help. The camp has 1 new resident, 1 person barred “for hanging out across the street.” Speaking of “across the street,” C2C security called 911 to report suspicious activity across Myers Way early one recent morning – “3 carloads of young people, 1 appeared to be carrying a rifle,” SPD was called. The camp had a party on Saturday for May/June birthdays and ended up honoring Davis too as well as its other co-founders. They’ve fed 108 people who “have come to the front gate” in the month of May
QUESTIONS: Related to the concern Fulton relayed from a community member, Stenger asked Castle how LIHI decides who gets tiny houses when they are donated to the organization. 18th/Yesler is the ninth village, which has 38, and the South Lake Union village that’s being planned will have 50. They have a “whole list where we track where they are going to,” he said. People are building them all over the region. “We are aware that Camp 2nd Chance needs more tiny houses.” Van Bronkhorst said the city is talking about buying some “tiny structures” though they won’t be “tiny houses.” Castle said that they are building tiny houses faster than ever before. But, community supporter/volunteer David Baum said, LIHI has long known more houses were needed at C2C, so why are they taking on new obligations (adding villages) if current needs aren’t being met? “This is part of solving the crisis,” replied Castle. Baum pressed the point, why isn’t this camp getting resources? “It’s well managed, it’s not making noise … What do we have to do to let you and the city know” that the needs need to be met?
Baum asked Castle to commit to replacing all tents with tiny houses “before it gets cold.” Castle said he would “take that back” to his organization. He also noted that volunteers and donors are being leaned on. “If you can build 50 for a new camp, you can build 20 for these people,” Baum said.
Next question was from camp resident Jim, who said that hygiene needs aren’t being met – laundry and more. And while most services are a bus ride away given C2C’s location, they haven’t been provided enough bus tickets.
Horne said, “We are desperately trying to bring to Camp Second Chance services that weren’t there before.” He said they’re reordered 120 books of bus tickets – that’s 2 per day per resident. He said they’re “open to any ideas” about how to do it better.
Fulton recalled talk of building a shower trailer.
Co-founder Chris Brand picked up on that and said he had spearheaded a plan for a mobile shower, and if Alki UCC can still help with that, he can get it done. “If I can build a mobile shower, can you get me running water, even if it’s from a hose next door at the fire house?”
Stenger said that if the project budget can be provided, they can get going with planning it.
Garcia pointed out that they’d also have to work out where the drained water would go.
“Could it be done with tanks?” wondered Van Bronkhorst.
An extensive logistics discussion ensued. Then Castle brought it back around to money, saying the city is underfunding most if not all of their villages. Van Bronkhorst said he believes the city is aware of that.
Meantime, Horne said the priority right now for C2C is to help the three senior citizens – all over 70 – who are there now. He also observed that C2C is a high-functioning camp, compared to most.
More discussion included Zsa Zsa from the C2C board pointing out that the camp members try to take care of needs among themselves. Baum noted that the camp pre-dated city sanctioning/funding and said the camp’s mission is not necessarily the same as the city’s goals. He voiced concern that even if its “second year” renewal is granted, the camp is likely to have to move by next spring, and it’s time for the camp to do what it’s long been discussing, becoming its own 501(c)3. Planning is vital if it’s going to move, stay together, etc. How will the partnerships work? Much work needs to be done “if we’re going to build something new out of this incredible opportunity.”
A camp resident who said he’s clean and sober and employed, and a veteran, wonders why people who are addicted have an easier time getting taken care of.
Castle acknowledged there are two models – clean/sober, and low-barrier. He said there are definitely more resources going toward the latter, but “currently we’re setting up” another clean/sober camp, at 18th/Yesler.
Van Bronkhorst said for one, he believes the city is aware that C2C needs more tiny houses and that the encampments are underfunded. Fulton said she agrees that people who need less help require assistance as much as those who need more help. Baum said it’s a political issue too, but overall, everyone needs “their own piece of the pie” and needs to get help until they can do that.
Another camp resident said she was told that since she isn’t addicted, she isn’t eligible for immediate housing, so she is working on “accumulating” what’s needed to do so. She wondered what support is available for people who get help getting into housing – what happens when they have to start paying the rent themselves? Zsa Zsa noted that the couple who were placed in housing will have their rent paid for a year – but then what?
Garcia said he is hopeful that with new, permanent case manager Horne, resources will go to who and where they are needed.
There was also talk of the importance of conflict resolution.
The talk turned back to gender equity, and Fulton said she supports C2C because it is home to men as well as women and all are being empowered.
Next issue – Garcia brought up racing on Myers Way – “this strip between midnight and 3 am gets really loud” – and asked if Van Bronkhorst could surface that to SPD. Van Bronkhorst, meantime, said he understands another cleanup for the east side of Myers Way is planned in the next 30 days or so.
A camp resident asked Castle about LIHI’s staffing budget for the camp. He said he didn’t have that information with him but could provide it. (We’ll inquire.)
NEXT MEETING: The next meeting likely won’t be on the usual first Sunday of the month, since that’ll be a few days before July 4th – watch for updates.