It looked for a while like Camp Second Chance might crash and burn; that is, that the project might fail and the camp might close. No more! A massive cooperative effort is turning the place around, with participation from camp leaders, camp residents, supporters in the community, and the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI, the new managing agency for the project).
From August through October, controversies surrounding the previous management of the camp had disrupted the relationship between the camp and the City of Seattle. This was bad news, because the City provides authorization for the camp’s use of public land, and vital funding. Distrust and confusion reigned on all sides. The contract for camp operations was transferred to LIHI in September, but relations remained strained and cooperation sparse. The most likely scenario seemed to be: continuing disarray until the expiration of the camp’s permit in February 2018, a decision by the City not to renew the permit for another year, and the chaotic failure of the project.
We have changed that. The Camp Board and the camp as a whole authorized me to help create a new model of administration that is bringing smooth functioning, transparency, and accountability to the operation of the camp. I am working closely with LIHI, the camp’s new management partner, to establish cooperative procedures and effective communication. (I have no official position at present; I’m just a do-gooder busybody!)
Camp Second Chance has a devoted circle of supporters in the community who have contributed time, money, and materials to build the camp’s infrastructure and to assist its residents. During the time of trouble, those supporters stepped back, waiting for reassurance that the camp can function effectively so their investments will not be wasted. It is our highest goal to bring together this widespread group of donors and volunteers – plus current and former residents of the camp – into a “Village” that surrounds and supports the camp.
The action plan for the turn-around of Camp Second Chance has three components:
- Governance: Revise, update, and publish the rules and procedures of the camp so they are transparent to the camp residents, the camp’s management partners, and the community.
- Administration: Implement efficient record-keeping systems that produce good results for the campers and good reports for the camp’s partners and community.
- Public Relations: Make the case that to invest in Camp Second Chance is a wise and worthwhile choice, and provide a trustworthy, transparent, and accountable mechanism for contributions to the camp.
This is an ambitious program, but we are already on the way. Camp leaders invited me to attend every meeting of the Camp Board and the full Camp, in the interest of transparency and accountability. I find a fundamentally honest system operating well in difficult circumstances with few resources. Working with members of the Camp Board, I have revised the office forms and systems used to track information in the camp, enabling the creation of reports that are timely, accurate, and meaningful. Devoted members of the community surrounding the camp are beginning again to invest their energy and resources.
Camp Second Chance is turning around, and we look forward to a successful New Year! More on this to come…