By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Change is ahead for Camp Second Chance, its Community Advisory Committee was told at this month’s online meeting.
Co-founder and site coordinator Eric Pattin announced he will be leaving that role at West Seattle’s only tiny-house encampment later this month to work in a new capacity with camp operator LIHI, as it opens the Executive Hotel Pacific enhanced shelter, which has 150 rooms, and will have intensive case management and be focused on rapid rehousing.
LIHI’s Andrew Constantino and Josh Castle discussed other staff matters. They’re also hiring a new case manager and hopr that will happen this week. The camp also will have an evening security person and a weekend “keyholder” who will handle emergency situations. The new site coordinator will work Monday-Friday, a change from the past live-in/always-there mode in which that position – held until now by camp co-founders – operated. Constantino, who himself had a background as an on-site staff person and former resident at another tiny-house village, was adamant that it’s a better way to operate, both for the person who holds the job and for the camp. Committee members worried that some of the “magic sauce” of CSC has been its self-management, operated/led by residents. Constantino said he appreciates those values and principles, but a “dynamic” has changed, including expectations that come with city funding. And he said the founders were “rare individuals” who have moved on and will move on, and there’s no guarantee someone like that will re-emerge. He feels the “live-in staff person” can actually be a destabilizing factor.
The discussion also touched on other ways in which CSC has changed – currently it’s not allowed to boot out people for drug/alcohol use, and that’s “been a struggle for Canp Second Chance” given its origins as a drug-and-alcohol-free camp, Castle acknowledged. It was also noted that the tiny-house building at CSC – which has now moved on to The Hope Factory in SODO – was part of the “magic sauce” too, bringing community members onto the site regularly. Hopes were voiced that returning something similar to CSC might be possible post-pandemic: “There’s no manual on this – we’re cutting-edge.”
OTHER CAMP UPDATES: Pattin said CSC is currently home to 54 villagers, 39 men and 15 women. Two people have left in the past month, one for affordable housing, The camp made seven 911 calls, five involving SPD.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS’ REPORTS: Chair Willow Fulton said things seemed OK from the neighborhood standpoint this past month …Aaron Garcia from the White Center Community Development Association said the Washington State Housing Finance Commission did not fund the affordable housing project planned for the WC Food Bank site, so they’ll “try again,” though it’ll be delayed at least a year. But the “community hub” part of the plan will still go ahead and break ground early next year. Garcia also reported working with the vaccination clinic at Evergreen High School this past week and “saw so much relief” … Judi Carr from Arrowhead Gardens said residents “are all getting vaccinated” this week; they’ll be going to the city’s West Seattle site “one floor at a time”; residents in the meantime are getting to socialize – distanced and masked – a little more … Cinda Stenger from Westside Interfaith Network/Alki UCC said community members banded together to help a camper who was suffering a health crisis because of extreme “dental distress” … Grace Stiller had brought the camper’s situation to light and said assistance for dental health would be good on a larger scale. She said counseling for drug/alcohol help would be beneficial too. And she said the wetland restoration project is going well and a chipper will be used next weekend to turn removed blackberry canes into mulch. A clump of poison hemlock has shown up and will be reported. … Following up on the mention of the person in “dental distress,” Castle observed that universal health care could prevent a lot of homelessness. He said there’s a mobile dental clinic but it hasn’t been operating during COVID; they hope to figure out how to have it visit villages once the pandemic eases.
Other topics discussed:
OTHER ENCAMPMENTS PLANNED: U District. North Seattle, and Skyway, as well as a future site in Bellingham and an about-to-open camp on Puyallup Tribe land are in the works, said LIHI’s Josh Castle.
TECHNOLOGY NEEDS: A discussion on this topic brought up whether laptops could be purchased from a refurbisher such as InterConnection. Castle agreed they could review some items that villages “could really use” as long as access is equitable – say, “it’s a village laptop” that could be checked out. How about suggesting to Microsoft that its annual Hackathon devote some attention to ensuing that technology is available to people experiencing homelessness? was another idea.
FOOD: Operation Sack Lunch serves hot food daily at CSC, the committee was told.
GETTING INVOLVED: West Seattle resident Louise said she and her husband had brought the camp a hot meal a few weeks back and toiletries more recently, and wants to know more about ways to help. “Any way I can help, I want to.”
ROOM FOR 1 MORE? A tiny house at CSC is still maintained by cofounder Eric Davis, though he now works for LIHI in Tacoma. This was confirmed when Stenger asked about it and wondered if that tiny house could be repurposed to add another camper at CSC. Constantino described the situation as kind of like maintaining a room for your student who’s gone away to college.
NEW MEETING TIME? The group is still considering moving the meetings to a time slot other than the first Sunday afternoon of the month. (Next month definitely won’t be the first Sunday, since that’s Easter.) They may also put the call out for more CAC members. Discussion ensued with agreement that it’s not just an opportunity for camp supporters – skeptics or even opponents would be welcome too, though there was some concern about overall logistics of finding and screening new members, whatever their views.
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