‘They’re Trying to Cram Us All Into One Itty-Bitty Area’
The Eureka Police Department plans to remove homeless camps from the northernmost end of the PalCo Marsh/Devil’s Playground area in Eureka.
“They’re trying to cram us all into one itty-bitty area,” a voice said from inside a tent yesterday. “All that does is put me into depression.”
The woman inside the tent, who identified herself as Sheila, said she has been homeless for over 10 years. She said she has gone “indoors” a few times but has always ended up homeless again.
“We gotta move to where the beginning of the slough is,” Sheila said. “I’m 50 years old. I can’t move the damn pallets like I used to.”
In an email, Captain Steve Watson of the Eureka Police Department said he estimated 42 “residential tents” were going to be affected. Sheila’s tent was one of them.
“We’ve been warning folks down there for weeks that some of those in the northernmost end were going to be moved,” Watson said over the phone. “Now that we are past the series of storms and the holidays are past, we have to follow through.”
Watson said that people who refuse to follow “Open Space Rules” will be removed from the area.
Patrick, who was in the tent next to Sheila, said he wasn’t aware of the city’s plans to move his camp.
“It’s the middle of goddamn winter,” Patrick said. “This whole move was out of nowhere.”
Patrick, who said he studied forestry and has a master’s degree in business administration, said he works during the summer, but can’t find jobs in the wintertime. While he talked, he put Tyvek on top of a pallet to keep moisture out of a tent.
A group called Friends of the Humboldt Houseless will be meeting in the Bayshore Mall parking lot at 9 a.m. today to support the homeless population.
“We are not definite on whether [the police] will show or not, but we need to come together to defend the rights of the community in the Marsh,” the group said on their “Direct Action” Facebook page. “We can meet and decide what action if any needs to be taken, but we need to be there.”
Captain Watson said that he believes that the homeless advocacy groups and the Eureka Police Department are not that far apart.
“Our paths might be different, maybe a few goals are different, but, at the end of the day, we mostly want the same thing,” Watson said.
A 20-year-old named Max came to sit with Patrick and Sheila. He said he has been homeless since he was 13 years old, but, unlike Sheila and Patrick, he sleeps in the Mission at night.
“When your family gives up on you, you give up on yourself,” Max said as he sprinkled marijuana into some rolling paper.
Sheila said she used to stay in churches at night, but she doesn’t anymore.
“They won’t let me in,” Sheila said. “They said I’m too mean. They said my mouth is too vulgar and they don’t want me to influence their children.”
Sheila said she believes a lot of the area’s homeless problems stem from the city not having enough low-income housing. She said she’s been looking for place to rent recently, but she hasn’t been able to find anything affordable.
“It’s wherever my head lays is where my home’s at,” Sheila said.