Running a Seattle homeless encampment has a price tag

By: BY DYER OXLEY, MyNorthwest.com Writer

Updated:

SEATTLE - Camp Second Chance has a problem. It’s been a little too successful in its short existence as a sober homeless encampment aimed at moving people into housing. But all of that costs money.

“Our contract with the city is finalized and they are giving us $208,000 in 2017, which is awesome,” said Polly Trout, executive director of Patacara Community Services, the organization that runs Camp Second Chance.

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But as much money as they’ve garnered already, the homeless encampment still needs a little more — $6,000 to pay their bills and paid staff. On top of that immediate need, the organization has about $20,000 more to raise for the entire year’s budget. But Trout is not worried about those funds yet. She notes that she also wants to put money toward hiring a grant writer in order to raise further funding.

It’s been an interesting path for Trout, who broke a lock to gain access to vacant city land and set up this homeless encampment. The originally unauthorized camp has since gained a city contract. That’s provided a rush of funds, but the city money is for operating into the future. The organization has bills due from its operations in January, February, and part of March — before the city’s participation. So Trout is asking locals to pitch in and cover the funding gap.

Trout originally sent out a call for help to raise $8,000 earlier this week. A neighbor donated $2,000 immediately, leaving about $6,000 left to cover before April 15. The immediate funds are needed to cover electrical installations at Camp Second Chance, but also the nonprofit itself.

“We are growing crazy fast, which is great and wonderful,” Trout said.

“Mostly, we’re fundraising for Patacara …” she said. “Our whole operating budget for 2016 was $32,000, and we were all volunteer. In 2017, our organizational budget will be closer to $250,000 and we will have three paid staff. We have things like office equipment and payroll …”

Homeless encampment and housing

Among Patacara’s paid staff is a recently hired housing case manager — the camp funnels people from homelessness to housing. It has held approximately 25 people in the past. That number was recently cut by more than half when the camp stopped outreach efforts in order to finalize the city contract. The numbers decreased because campers moved into housing.

“Either in with family or their own places,” Trout said. “We are really committed to getting people into housing — either independent housing or we get them back in with family.”

“Occasionally, somebody gets barred from the camp because they are not able to follow the code of conduct, and they continue being homeless someplace else, because Camp Second Chance is a clean and sober environment,” she said. “That happens, too. I’m not going to lie. But most of the time people move up and into housing.”

Since the city came on board, the camp has swelled to 34 people. It is expected to accommodate up to 60-70 people, according to the city’s goals.

Patacara accepts donations through its website.

Story by MyNorthwest

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