Thursday, June 8, 2017

Room to Grow

By Christy Houghton
Additional Property for Camp Second Chance

There were only 14 residents at Camp Second Chance before the city added another parcel of land in March, making room to grow. The site can now house up to 70 people in 50 tents or tiny houses. New residents have come from other camps, or from homeless 'sweeps', where people and their things are removed from an unsanctioned location.
By April first, the camp had already doubled in size.

A Model Camp

Camp Second Chance allows adults only, due to the relatively remote industrial area where schools and daycares aren’t very close. Everyone is expected to follow the camp's rules, including a prohibition on having alcohol or drugs in camp. If a rule gets broken once, though, there’s compassion. That person is reminded of the rules and given a second chance to stay. Sometimes, the Second Chance Community isn’t a good fit for someone in their current life situation. There's a large extra tent with three cots, so people can spend the night as guests, even if they decide not to join the community. Camp Second Chance even hires an Uber ride, so the guest has a way to get to a different place the next morning.

Eric Davis, the camp’s Program Director, founded this nonprofit transitional housing community with fifteen others. Davis shared the planned improvements and his vision for Camp Second Chance. “We’ll have electricity in April. Shortly after that, running water will be available.” A mobile shower service arrives every Tuesday now, and will soon come on Saturdays, too. Davis would like to see tiny portable houses replace the tents. Eventually, they’ll build raised garden beds. After a visit, the mayor had said that this is a model camp, and Davis agrees. It’s not all about the services, though.

Run Like a Family

“This camp is run like a family,” claims Davis. Each camper has a voice in making decisions that impact the camp, like how to spend donated money and when to purchase new items. All decisions are put to a vote, and the majority vote wins. Davis feels strongly that everyone needs to be treated with respect, with their opinion heard and valued. And, just like in a family, everyone is expected to help out with the camp's chores. Davis’ philosophy is that "we use you for what you're good at." People are assigned to roles and tasks for the camp, based on what they can do. Responsibilities include security, kitchen coordinators, and maintenance duties. When people arrive with very few personal things, the camp purchases a tent and tarp for the new residents. Camp Second Chance is a place to feel safe, where people can leave their belongings while working or looking for a job. Residents know that their things will be there with their ‘family community’ when they return, even as the family grows this year.