Camp Second Chance’s long-planned expansion brings 50% population increase

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After a short hiatus following the departure of its longtime chair, the Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee regrouped Tuesday night online and heard a progress report on the camp’s expansion.

We first mentioned more than a year ago that West Seattle’s only sanctioned tiny-house encampment, at 9701 Myers Way South since 2016, was in line for an expansion. After the addition of tiny houses, it has 64, and all but four of them are occupied, said CSC operations manager Scott Harris. That means 75 people are living at CSC now – 62 men, 13 women. (Harris noted the population also includes 4 cats and 8 dogs.) Before the expansion, it was generally around 50 people.

Many of the new residents were referred at the same time. The camp has seen four abandonments from among those recent referrals – people shown to their units, who then left, saying they had to go get their stuff, but never returned. Harris says that’s rare, and if it happens, they hold the unit vacant for two days to give the person a chance to show up, but then it’s given to someone else. Case manager Marjorie Johnson said they try to reach out to those who “abandon,” in hopes of encouraging them to come back. (They even call hospitals and the Medical Examiner.) She said it can be overwhelming sometimes for a person who’s been in a community elsewhere to suddenly have to deal with more support, new neighbors, a new place to stay.

The new tiny houses aren’t the only additions and changes to the camp as part of its expansion. A new icemaker arrived earlier this week, in time for the current mini-heat wave. Water tanks were moved to the front of the camp and Seattle Public Utilities is installing fencing around them. They’re near the new hygiene trailer (funded by a budget amendment from West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold last year), which has an attendant on weekdays but is yet to be hooked up to sewer lines; it’s being pumped out every few days until that happens. An emergency-exit gate is being added near the kitchen tent. The new freezer has been malfunctioning but it’s under warranty so they’re working to get a repair specialist out to fix it.

New security cameras have been installed and four more remain. Josh Castle from LIHI, which operates the camp and other tiny-house villages around the region, said cameras are standard for sites like this. In addition to monitoring areas inside the camp, cameras also monitor the parking area outside the camp, which has seen a few vehicle thefts, Harris noted.

That’s not the only way in which that area is being monitored. It was noted that city Parking Enforcement Officers have been ticketing cars for parking there. Community Advisory Committee member Grace Stiller said one camp resident had to go to court to argue against the ticket. Camp managers said they had talked to the city about this problem before and thought they had it resolved until a PEO showed up again last week.

Case manager Johnson provided an update on her work. She has continued working on housing placements and says the camp is down to 7 longtime residents – “more than 2 years” – and she’s working closely with them. Her recent work includes seeking housing for people at apartment buildings recently opened by LIHI, including the Dockside in Green Lake – for which she’s put in 16 applications – and the Frye. Three people are waiting to move into the Harvard and she’s hoping that will happen by December 1st. She added that CSC is having monthly all-village meetings, and that a fulltime mental-health therapist is now on duty at the camp as of this week. Overall, she said, “Just as fast as they’re coming in, I’m moving them out,” and in a few cases where people don’t want to move, she’s working with them to find out why. Fauntleroy Church continues supporting campers with bus passes and hygiene items. They’re hiring to get help for Johnson, too, as CSC moves from “tiny house village to tiny house metropolis,” as Castle termed it.

Asked if they need support for the weather extremes, Harris said “we can always use bottled water and Gatorade.”

GROUP LOGISTICS: The CAC remains without a chair since founding chair Willow Fulton’s resignation earlier this summer. It has room for more members too. Seattle’s sanctioned tiny-house villages are all supposed to have CACs, as required by the city, so even though the leadership change led to a short hiatus, there was no question that it would resume. Their meetings are meant for getting camp updates to the wider community as well as providing a venue for asking questions and surfacing concerns. Now the task for the group is “to get it back to a robust level,” said Castle. Next meeting is TBD.

15 Replies to "Camp Second Chance's long-planned expansion brings 50% population increase"

  • Roms August 17, 2022 (6:35 pm)

    “Camp managers said they had talked to the city about this problem before and thought they had it resolved” ==> Why would be the residents off the hook on parking properly? Isn’t anyone supposed to be equal against the law (yes, I know, in this region were are not)? Could LIHI improve parking arrangements for this to not happen? That’s likely the best way to avoid the hassle that these persons have to endure. They’re on their way to a better future, so let’s help them properly.

    • Adam August 17, 2022 (9:07 pm)

      My guess would be that they have a laundry list of items that need attention and putting in proper parking spaces would require a lot more resources than they can muster. And if they did have money for it, something else would suffer. As much as I’m not a believer in this all being a housing issue, I’ve visited and donated to this place and really enjoyed seeing how well put together it appeared to be. Met a few residents with my wife and son, they were all very nice. I don’t want this to be what the bulk of funding goes to, I think the homeless issue is incredibly dynamic, but I was impressed by how well it seemed to be working there. 

  • Curious August 17, 2022 (8:02 pm)

    I am honestly curious how this place works. Can someone please explain with an honest answer. Do these people pay anything to live there? Are they required to be clean and sober? Does any of my tax dollars go toward this place? I love the ideas of these but am honestly curious how they are funded and kept up. 

    • Ned Nederlander August 17, 2022 (9:27 pm)

      I’ve taken my kids down there to take food to the camp a few times. They’re always happy to talk to you about the camp if you want to go down there and understand it better. Shoot them an email ahead of time and ask them what they’re in need of if you want to help.

    • KBear August 17, 2022 (9:27 pm)

      @Curious, there has been extensive coverage of Camp Second Chance right here on the West Seattle Blog. You appear to be on the internet. Do a search. If you are truly curious, the answers are right there for you. 

      • John W August 17, 2022 (10:49 pm)

        KBEAR, It seems like an honest inquiry of three direct questions that those posting, like you, may know.  Since many people post without reading the article, someone actually wondering the basics should not be an issue.  Those three questions could be answered in less words than either your reply or the one I am writing.  – 
        From what I read, the city does provide funding, so your tax dollars are there.   The camp is defined as”clean and sober.”  
        The residents do not pay rent so they may save money to move into permanent housing. 
        I am a believer and long time supporter of ‘housing first’ and the aggressive responses of KBEAR and the other fictional character are not necessary. 

        • momosmom August 18, 2022 (7:44 am)

          John W- Thank you for answering “Curious'” questions without shaking your finger at him/her.

        • Curious August 18, 2022 (8:00 am)

          Thank you JohnW for your kind response. I appreciate the info. I tried my best to make my original post sound as sincere as possible so I wouldn’t get judged by people like KBear who seem to enjoy posting things that are unnecessary and unkind. I honestly was just wanting to know these things and could not find the info online as I am not very good at that.

    • 1994 August 17, 2022 (10:32 pm)

      Of course our tax dollars go to the Low Income Housing Institute. They are a non -profit, take donations, but also get tax dollars to run their programs. Some non-profits include their financials, annual reports, on their web sites but I don’t see any on the LIHI web site.

    • equity August 18, 2022 (10:45 pm)

      It’s good to be curious. Hoping you may be curious enough to try and learn and understand more about this housing and the people needing it and the difficulties they are up against which is why they are not in a position to maybe immediately be paying rent.  Maybe you could visit and talk to some folks or volunteer?

      Homelessness is a hole and it can take a lot to get back to stable paid home living.

      Happy to hear there is more housing available here for people who need it.

  • Jeepney August 18, 2022 (9:48 am)

    I believe that Camp Second Chance is not affiliated with Share/Wheel, so it is operated differently.  At Camp Second Chance there are rules that residents must follow, and they do have a pretty good success rate at finding folks stable housing.  As a taxpayer who hates seeing money wasted, I believe that the folks who run Camp Second Chance do an efficient job with the funds provided to them.

    • equity August 18, 2022 (10:50 pm)

      Would agree this is money well spent. And makes better sense than spending on repeated remediations, without the housing help. More accessible housing and services are needed.

  • CityStakeholder August 18, 2022 (2:30 pm)

    Camp Second Chance was not a sanctioned encampment and was founded extralegally. It was only supposed to be in place for 2 years and the site where it currently sits to become a park. However, I have seen no accountability on this front. Herbold earmarking budget finds to support this camp tells you where her priorities are (though it wouldn’t take a genious to figure out her MO). And the West Seattle Blog hasn’t pushed on those questions in years. I know many commenters here who are sympathetic to this camp are politically invested in it staying, but as a taxpayer, I question why we were promised a park and never received it. This is a political failure all around. 

    • K August 19, 2022 (6:36 am)

      When were we ever promised a park there?  And with the current state of staffing and funding at Seattle Parks do you think there would realistically be another one added any time in recent history regardless?  This is a good use of city resources, and I’m glad they’ve gotten the city support they have.

      • WSB August 19, 2022 (2:41 pm)

        This is the history to which the commenter refers.
        Last time someone brought it up here was two years ago. The situation now is the same as it was then – they haven’t even developed the close-in landbanked parks (Morgan addition, Junction 40th SW, 48th/Charlestown), and in the meantime, there is no longer any time limit for this type of use. The announcement covered in the link above – when the then-mayor announced the city would keep the Myers Way Parcels instead of selling them off, as had been contemplated – came not long before Camp Second Chance arrived in the area, originally without permission (first across Myers, then this site). – TR

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