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.