By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Will Camp Second Chance stay on the Myers Way Parcels past next spring?
That was a major topic at this month’s meeting of the C2C Community Advisory Committee. The city-sanctioned encampment is continuing to transition into a “tiny-house village,” even as it approaches the end of its second official year at 9701 Myers Way S.
48 people are living at the camp right now, according to the status report presented to the Community Advisory Committee, which meets every month at Arrowhead Gardens, a few blocks north of the camp. Chair Willow Fulton opened by saying she had visited the camp recently and it’s making “amazing” progress on building tiny houses; the status report said 36 are now complete, five more about to be completed, with three to follow. The city funding does not cover the costs of tiny houses (or tents); Alki UCC has donated many of the structures and is starting a fundraising campaign to build 18 more, the committee was told. An indoor space to continue construction has not yet been found, so the work is happening under a tent. Alki UCC is hoping LIHI – the camp’s operator, by contract with the city – will help with logistics of getting power to the tent.
Committee member Aaron Garcia, from the White Center Community Development Association, noted that the WCCDA’s community summit drew 150 people a few weekends ago. It included housing workshops related to the redevelopment plans for 80 units of affordable housing as part of a project at 8th SW/SW 108th in White Center. He is hopeful some of those units will take people out of homelessness. He also mentioned the upcoming community design workshop for the project next Saturday (here’s the announcement published on our partner site White Center Now).
LIHI executive director Sharon Lee was at the meeting for the first time in a while. She said she had recently toured C2C and hailed the “wonderful improvements” for tiny houses, though some remain uninsulated. She also noted that camp founder/manager Eric Davis is now a fulltime LIHI employee and thanked the City Council for providing funding in the newly approved budget. She said LIHI is using donated space in SODO that might work for tiny-house construction but they are still looking into that.
Lee said she is troubled that C2C’s site still doesn’t have sewer and running water and she’s been talking to the city about options – could a shower facility be set up via the nearby Joint Training Facility (the Fire Station next door to the village in Georgetown provided water to an encampment next door, for example) or even the LDS Church across Myers Way? “So much time has gone on and we still don’t have basic needs being met.” She also mentioned the expiration of the renewal period coming up in just a few months. (March 2019 is the official end of the camp’s second sanctioned year; it originally occupied the site without authorization in summer 2016.) “Should the village move so we can have better facilities or should it stay in place?” If it moved, she believes that other homeless people would likely move onto the Myers Way site.
Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods, lone city rep at the meeting, noted that the fire station in Georgetown is next to the encampment there, while the JTF is a few blocks north of C2C, and distance makes a difference. People could walk from the camp if a trailer was set up there, Lee countered. Van Bronkhorst also said that the city is indeed discussing options for the camp’s future. Lee said that until there are services, they need to have a serious conversation with the city about who can be referred to C2C. They don’t think it’s a suitable site for the frail, for example.
From there, the updates continued:
Case manager Richard Horne said they’ve found housing for five residents and have four more pending. They also are “pursuing education and employment opportunities for everyone at the camp who wants to pursue it.” Some living at the site are already employed. Some clients are from Snohomish County at some earlier point in their life so they are working with programs there to see if permanent housing can be found for some campers. “Permanent housing is the name of the game.” And seeking it often means looking outside King County, he said. As tiny houses continue to be built, they have moved more people out of tents, and also gotten heaters and blankets. They’ve also helped with car repairs and clothes, “everything that’s needed to help our clients try to move forward,” he added.
Asked a followup question about his mention of Snohomish County mention, Horne said that some had come to King County looking for better services. But Snohomish County has been working on some programs such as one that can take people from homeless to homeownership in four years, so they are talking to people there on behalf of people who might be interested in relocating back there. Lee added that LIHI has some properties in Snohomish County and just got a grant “to build more affordable housing there.”
She said that four percent is the general stat for shelter residents exiting to housing, but, she said, 32 percent are exiting tiny-house villages to permanent housing, 9.5 percent to transitional housing. “This is what’s showing that living in a tiny house village is much more effective in getting people into permanent housing” as well as into employment. She said that the numbers covered this past January through October, for 10 tiny-house villages including one not funded by the city. She also said LIHI believes the city Human Services Department underreports how many homeless people move into housing.
Horne said that they are working on cleaning up data in the Homeless Information Management System so that its data is accurate.
Camp director Davis added that things are “peaceful and quiet.” Van Bronkhorst asked him whether there had been any recent 911 responses at the camp. Davis said the camp called 911 about a man who had been causing trouble in the neighborhood, stealing from yards, trying to run into the encampment. There are some random people in need of assistance appearing from time to time on Myers Way, “and if they need assistance, we’ll call.”
Back to the topic of C2C’s future, committee member Garcia asked for a city timeline on decisionmaking re: its future at the Myers Way Parcels. Van Bronkhorst said the city is going to “closely watch” how the January 23rd Highland Park Action Committee meeting – which will focus on the camp and whether to support its renewal at the site – goes and says it’s a good thing that’s a community-organized meeting.
Lee mentioned that Othello Village got a third year but if that’s not going to happen here, they need to start talking about sites fast.
Garcia said outreach to camp neighbors on the county side of the line – C2C is close to the city/county border – is vital in determining its future too.
Lee mentioned that HSD has undergone a leadership change – the person who departed was “anti-tiny houses,” she said, so they need to show the new leader how they’re working. She also mentioned that applications were due the next day for the new “safe lot” for vehicle residents to park nightly (not around the clock) funded in next year’s budget.
COMMUNITY COMMENT: One community member spoke, Denise, identifying herself as a friend of C2C. She brought up the aforementioned HPAC meeting and that organization’s longstanding frustration about camps being in the area for 10 years (dating back to the original “Nickelsville” at West Marginal/Highland Park Way in 2008). She noted there will be a panel discussion at the January 23rd HPAC meeting and community members should be there to participate. She also mentioned the future of the east side of Myers Way, the area recently cleaned up, and said that she and others are talking with potential partners who could work on the site’s future – such as the Duwamish Tribe and the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition. They’ll likely organize a meeting in January to talk about that. And she mentioned the Alki UCC Christmas concert on December 16th that will be a fundraiser for causes including C2C.
NEXT MEETING: January 6, 2 pm, Arrowhead Gardens.