FOLLOWUP: Highland Park Action Committee, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council voice disappointment at Camp Second Chance extension

We published the city Human Services Department‘s announcement of another year for Camp Second Chance shortly after receiving it on Thursday afternoon. Since then, the two community councils closest to the sanctioned encampment – the Highland Park Action Committee and North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – have sent HSD interim director Jason Johnson this expression of disappointment:

The neighborhoods of Highland Park and the various neighborhoods comprising the unincorporated urban area of North Highline are extremely disappointed to hear that the City of Seattle has extended the permit for Camp Second Chance for an additional 12 months at the Myers Way Parcels (Fiscal and Administrative Services PMA #4539-4542). With this extension, the camp will have effectively been present at the current site for 2 years and 8 months, easily exceeding the allowed 2 year stay duration for encampments as outlined in Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.42.056, subsection E.1.

Camp Second Chance established itself on the Myers Way Parcels on July 23, 2016 (“Myers Way Parcels,” 2016), 10 days after former mayor Edward B. Murray declared that the property would be retained by the City of Seattle for the purposes of expanding the Joint Training Facility and for expanding recreational space (“Mayor Murray announces,” 2016). Polly Trout of Patacara Community Services—the organization which would become the sponsor for the camp—is reported to have used bolt cutters to break the lock on the fence that had been securing the property (Archibald, 2017a), thereby allowing the group of campers, who had defected from SHARE Tent City 3 earlier that year (Archibald, 2017b), to trespass and establish their new camp. The status of the camp remained in limbo for some time thereafter.

In a post on her blog concerning a possible eviction of the camp, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold (2016), who represents the district in which the camp is located, relayed that she had “urged the Executive [branch of city government] not only to have its work guided by established public health and safety prioritization criteria, but…asked whether outreach workers have the ability to ask for more time if – in their estimation – more time would help get campers access to services.” Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw and King County Council member Jean Kohl-Welles, who are not representatives of the area where the camp is located, had requested from Mayor Murray that the camp not be immediately evicted (Jaywork, 2016). Within 5 months of the camp’s establishment on the Myers Way property, the Murray administration proceeded to officially sanction the encampment (“West Seattle Encampment,” 2016), thereby delaying the community’s request to have the Myers Way Parcels relinquished to the Parks and Recreation department for future development of the site in accordance with community wishes.

I want to make clear that the communities surrounding the encampment are not strangers to disadvantage. Our neighborhoods have suffered from a lack of investment going back at least a century, and from redlining in the 1930s. The lasting effects of this lack of investment in our neighborhoods are palpable to this day!

Data from the American Community Survey (5-year Series, 2009-2013) show that Highland Park (Census Tract 113) has a lower median income ($53,182) and a higher proportion of residents who identify as a race or ethnicity other than White (49.8%) than Seattle as a whole ($65,277 and 29.4%, respectively). The King County census tract immediately to the South of Highland Park, which encompasses the land area where the Myers Way Parcels are located, shows even starker demographic departures from Seattle.

Census Tract 265 overlays the southeastern-most portion of Highland Park in the City of Seattle, as well as a portion of White Center, which is part of the North Highline unincorporated urban area. There, the proportion of residents who identify as a race or ethnicity other than White increases to 60.1%, while the Median Household Income drops to $35,857.

Like most Seattleites, residents of our neighborhoods are compassionate and wish to address the homelessness crisis with empathy. However, in as much as the City claims to promote equity, we ask that neighborhoods like ours not continue to be overwhelmed with the responsibility of shouldering the burden of the City’s homelessness policies while wealthier, less diverse neighborhoods remain largely unscathed.

Over the past decade, Highland Park has hosted three encampments and served as a staging area for a proposed safe lot for individuals residing in recreational vehicles. This burden has impacted not only our neighborhood, but the neighborhoods immediately south of us along the city limit. No other neighborhood in Seattle has willingly or unwillingly taken on as much and to the same extent!

Given this history, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) has sought resolution from the Human Services Department on a number of items, including

1) The adoption of a set of best practices (manifested as our “Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments” which have been provided to the department on many past occasions and are again enclosed below) by which the City of Seattle will abide prior to sanctioning an encampment in any given neighborhood.

2) That the Finance and Administrative Services Department accelerate the relinquishment of the Myers Way Parcels to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

3) A plan resolving jurisdictional issues that arise from the presence of sanctioned and unsanctioned encampments at the interface of city, unincorporated county, and state land.

4) A 10% increase in the number of police officers assigned to the Southwest Precinct Patrol to help mitigate the increased burden on our current resources. (At 124 Full-Time Equivalents for budget year 2018, the Southwest Precinct Patrol Budget Control Level is the lowest in the city.)

Despite a reply on April 18 from Catherine Lester, the previous director of the Human Services Department, the Highland Park Action Committee does not feel that our requests have been satisfactorily addressed. We understand that some of our requests will require coordination with other departments. However, it is our belief that the City needs to take a holistic approach to its encampment-sanctioning process. To date, the methods employed have lacked transparency and eroded neighborhood trust in city government.

In an effort to allow residents of Highland Park and surrounding neighborhoods to get a better understanding of the City of Seattle’s homelessness response, the Highland Park Action Committee invites the Director of the Human Services Department (whomever that may be at the time) to attend our scheduled meeting on September 26, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. PDT for a moderated discussion on homelessness policy.

We kindly ask for confirmation of acceptance or declination of this request by August 17, 2018.


Charlie Omana
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee

Liz Giba
President, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Highland Park’s decade-long history with encampment goes back to the first camp that called itself “Nickelsville,” which was evicted from public land at Highland Park Way and West Marginal Way SW less than a week after it set up in September 2008.

14 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Highland Park Action Committee, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council voice disappointment at Camp Second Chance extension"

  • Ann June 8, 2018 (12:23 pm)

    Well written letter that shows no hostility.  It is an honest appraisal of the homeless situation relative to “Camp Second Chance.”  I only hope that city government will hear and acknowledge these concerns in a tangible way.  I don’t have any faith in our city government but we can always hope.

  • flimflam June 8, 2018 (1:20 pm)

    very well written, although i would say that ballard has also been forced to shoulder a huge amount of “services” in recent years. the urness house, urban rest stop, st lukes church meal service has turned commons park and the library into quite the scene.

  • Buttercup June 8, 2018 (1:41 pm)

    I understand and empathize with Highland Park residents( I live there also) although I don’t think Camp Second Chance is the problem. They have a strong set of rules and now with a new case worker they are moving along. This is a clean and sober camp that also shares the same frustrations as Highland Park. They don’t like the thieving, drugging, drinking, gun fire car racing that happens along there and they have reached out often for help from police. The problem is across the street and the rap that happens over there. Why is that not being addressed more strongly. When the compass group that goes in there to help them are often met with  people that refuse help . They refuse then they should be told to leave. They’re the problem.

    • Coldheart Craig June 8, 2018 (1:53 pm)

      Buttercup,The point isn’t necessarily that CSC is directly causing problems, it’s that the burden of hosting it has been hoisted on what is and has been an at-risk neighborhood. It’s not central to any services and is not in a favorable location for logistics. As you’ve pointed out, there’s a serious criminal element that’s encroached into the area, and it’s on the side that isn’t under city jurisdiction. Doesn’t it seem a bit funny that they’d sanction an encampment exactly where they know they have no authority?

      • Buttercup June 8, 2018 (2:39 pm)

        Dear Craig, they did not sanction a camp without jurisdiction, Seattle gas jurisdiction over Camp Second Chance. The city also has jurisdiction over the campers on the north end next to Roxbury, they have been in there often but nothing really changes. The state has jurisdiction over the campers south of the church, start a chain if complaints to the state. It is Central to services, bus service and they are given bus tickets, DSHS is only a mile away as well as other services and LIHI works with them to get their needs met. Logistics is actually pretty good, not under bridges, not in parts, rodent free, self sufficient.  There presence has nothing to do with the other illegal issues in White Center in highland Park. That has been their issues for many years. The Top Hat area is rife with pot shops as well as White Center, yet no one from Camp Second Chance frequents them, those businesses often bring an element that is detrimental.bI would rather see C2C where it is rather than becoming like the other side of the street or under Spokane street, or under the viaduct etc. That in the long run costs a whole lot more as well as greater problems.

    • Melissa June 8, 2018 (3:02 pm)

      I agree with Buttercup.  It is the people living outside the encampment and refuse services.  But I don’t know what the solution is to having them connect.

      • Buttercup June 8, 2018 (3:25 pm)

        When transition teams or compass teams enter in hillside to help them they are required to either accept what I’d being offered or move. After awhile people get tired of being moved. Their choice, but it’s ours to have our land returned to what it was. We have rights also

  • PW June 8, 2018 (1:48 pm)

    well written letter agree, and sadly the City is choosing to keep  yet another neighborhood worried about increased crime, drugs and trash for years to come. The camp is fine , it is the additional drug  users  and crime that squats around the area. You cannot convince anyone in a 5 mile radius it is a good thing. No citizens have a voice in the decision by the City and I guess they do not care, Another question why do these camps demand free services, wifi, garbage pickup, free food etc at our taxpaying expense. and no incentive to go to housing per the numbers.  No strict guidelines are in place for transition. It is a no expiration ticket.  Why are they not required to keep it clean and why is ok to have the neighboring areas become a free camp , drug, crime zone.This is not all directed at camp second chance but it is a band aid. Those that are truly homeless look for assistance but the issue here is mental health and drugs and crime.  

    • Buttercup June 8, 2018 (2:48 pm)

      Have you visited C2C? It is tidy, everyone is required to do “chores” as well as 2 weekly shifts at the security gate Serious reprecussions if they don’t adhere to rules.Wi-fi is there so they can connect with services, appt scheduling,families etc.Picking up the trash by city is common sense, we don’t want it looking like across the road.Unless you have been there please don’t assume these things about it. I have volunteered there for the last year and half and discovered these people are really no different than you and I. 

  • AMD June 8, 2018 (4:20 pm)

    I don’t necessarily agree with the underlying arguments in the letter, but I am super happy to see thought and reason put into it rather than the emotion and hyperbole you often see when discussing the issue.

  • Melissa June 8, 2018 (4:50 pm)

    That is not how I have seen addiction    I have seen that carrots work and punishments don’t.  Going to jail is not a deterrent because you have three hot meals and a place to put your head.  I am starting to think that you should start with the underlying causes of the addiction and then deal with the addiction.  

  • Really? June 8, 2018 (6:52 pm)

    So you telling me Mr. Omana that a clean and sober, well managed encampment that has the respect of the neighborhood and the city of Seattle should leave your neighborhood because C2C has been there over 2 years?  The green belt encampments have been there far longer than C2C and have done nothing but pollute the green belt, rob home owners, and allow violence and drugs to grow rampant in the your neighborhood. I suggest that you focus your efforts to find a solution to clean up the green belt area and let C2C stay there for another year unless your “Action Committee”wants to pay for the moving expences to move C2C to a different location.

    • Helpful June 8, 2018 (9:58 pm)

      I’ll bite. Why should “action committee” pay to move the overextended camp?

  • WSRes June 8, 2018 (11:18 pm)

    Very fair argument. Its time for Magnolia, Madison Park, Windermere, Madrona, Leschi, and Highland Terrace to shoulder some of the burden.

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