By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time since the city announced Camp Second Chance would be able to stay at 9701 Myers Way S. for at least six more months, its Community Advisory Committee met today.
The meeting included updates on camp operations and on moving campers into housing as well as questions about the camp’s future.
CAMP UPDATE: Resident manager Eric Davis distributed the monthly update: 50 campers right now, 18 women and 32 men. Campers are now in 41 “tiny houses” and 7 tents, with “2 spaces earmarked for two more houses,” thanks to donors working with “volunteers and residents.” He expressed gratitude for the city extension.
UPDATES FROM COMMITTEE MEMBERS: The meeting started, as usual, with a chance for CAC members in attendance to share comments and observations.
Willow Fulton, CAC chair, mentioned a visioning exercise at the C2C open house on March 17th. The event was “really well attended,” she said. (A two-sided one-sheet from the exercise, provided to us post-meeting, can be seen here and here.) Fulton, an area resident, also observed that the surrounding area is being kept fairly clear – nothing reported via Find It Fix It has gone unattended “longer than a week, which is amazing.” She noted some illegal dumping involving what appeared to be a private commercial truck pulling up behind a fence elsewhere on Myers Way.
Grace Stiller also shared observations from the open house – all ages, great food, attendees including State Senator Joe Nguyen and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. She represents environmental/greenspace groups and talked about a hope that a planting/restoration project involving camp residents will come to fruition; a grant is being sought, and city permission would be required.
Judi Carr said she was glad that the “powers that be” had granted a six-month extension and she hoped that the next six months would bring “good things.”
Richard Horne, case manager for C2C via city-contracted operator LIHI, said that counting 1 person who is moving out into housing soon, 11 people have transitioned from the camp into housing in the past six months. The camp “still has a large percentage of elderly people” so they’ve been talking to SHAG (which owns senior-living complexes including Arrowhead Gardens, where the CAC meets) about possible referrals. He said the “elderly” campers include people in their 70s with medical problems but “the camp situation as it’s set up right now is perfect for them because they’re safe.” Also at the camp right now, a woman who is 6 months pregnant. They’re making sure that she is keeping health-care appointments and getting proper nutrition, Horne said, while trying to find housing for her.
“People are beginning to participate in their own solutions because we are demonstrating success,” he summarized. Also, “we are proud that our people are getting jobs,” he declared, with LIHI’s help. “And you wouldn’t believe how happy these people are.”
City rep Tom Van Bronkhorst asked for some elaboration on the situation seeking SHAG housing for the older campers. Their incomes are too low, Horne replied, even though a couple of them are working. Some discussion ensued about whether they were independent enough for SHAG housing, as it’s not assisted living, as CAC member Carr – an Arrowhead Gardens resident – pointed out. Just getting them into this type of place would help them access “wraparound services” that they need, Horne explained.
Fulton wondered about balancing the goal to move people into housing with the value of some stability in the camp’s population, since it’s self-managed. “Camp Second Chance is not permanent housing,” Horne clarified, adding, “The camp is bigger than any of the clients.”
Shortly thereafter, Davis added, “The spirit is there” regardless of who’s at the camp and who’s not.
CAMP’S FUTURE: Van Bronkhorst said he had had spoken with reps of community groups who are concerned about the camp’s extension (none of whom were represented at this meeting) and that their issues largely weren’t with the camp itself. He promised the city would “continue to engage with them … during the period the review is under way.” In response to a followup question from Carr, he said the city hasn’t settled on a plan for that engagement, so far – he hopes for one to talk with the Highland Park Action Committee (which opposed the extension) to find out “how they want to proceed” – so they’re not yet sure if another public meeting will be held, at least not until the Human Services Department’s review is done. “Ultimately it will be up to the mayor to determine what the future of villages looks like.”
Who will be living there if the camp moves? another attendee asked.
Fulton expressed concern about the city placing too much weight on HPAC’s opinions, saying the community group was “self-appointed” and had not historically engaged much with the area closest to the camp. (From WSB archives: HPAC actually did spend a significant amount of time and effort advocating more than a decade ago against the city building a jail in this area – the Myers Way site where C2C is now located was a finalist site as well as the Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way site down the hill – HPAC’s research suggested the jail wasn’t needed at all, and ultimately the city reached the same conclusion.)
Van Bronkhorst also noted that the east side of Myers Way is “absolutely clear of vehicles” for the first time he had noticed in months of visits. To Fulton’s point about illegal dumping, he urged people to use the city’s Illegal Dumping Hotline (info here) to keep reporting it. Pictures and video help if available, he said, but “only if you’re feeling that you’re in a safe place to do that.” Regarding signage warning people against illegal dumping, Van Bronkhorst said SDOT isn’t currently installing more of those signs because they don’t seem to be effective.
Davis asked Van Bronkhorst about some unauthorized camping happening further west on the Myers Way Parcels outside C2C’s fencing. Van Bronkhorst indicated that was discussed in a recent meeting at Arrowhead Gardens but nothing conclusive came up, so he asked C2C to keep watch.
Shawn Neal of the city HSD was also at the table, with one update: He said they’re still working on a hygiene trailer for C2C.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS: This centered primarily on questions about the future of the site. One attendee also wondered about how the upcoming City Council elections might play into decisions about its future. Another attendee pointed out that while the city authorized and funds the camp, its neighbors on the other side of the city-county line don’t have a say.
NEXT MEETING: The CAC will meet again at 2 pm on Sunday, May 5th.