‘Establish Refuges’ for the Homeless, Urges Non Profit

Homeless man facing eviction from his camp

Homeless man facing eviction from his camp in the Palco Marsh. [Photo by Bobby Kroeker]

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Humboldt County, and its economic and administrative center, the city of Eureka, has a large population of unhoused families and individuals.  As a result complaints have arisen from the Eureka business community that the homeless, who have no real place to go, are creating an untidy environment.  The city has appointed one half time position to address this situation.  That position is in the police department and is filled by a person with no apparent background or expertise in homeless issues.  Eureka, like the county, offers no housing options for the people on the streets.  It appears that the more or less unspoken strategy of these local governments is to make life in this community so difficult for the homeless that they will simply “self-deport.”

Other local governments throughout the nation initially adopted that same strategy but many are now recognizing that that is untenable and are working with their own resources and volunteers to provide housing.  Humboldt refuses to seek much of the financial assistance offered by the federal government and generally does not try to work with volunteer organizations.  Indeed Eureka and Humboldt have so alienated the volunteer entities that they have not been able to comply with the federally mandated “Point in Time” count to ascertain the true number of homeless within their boundaries.  Reliable estimates are that there are presently thousands of homeless within the county.

Over the years the Eureka police sought to encourage/coerce these people to congregate in the Palco Marsh, a remnant of the city’s once viable lumber industry.  A little over a year ago the city evicted the approximately 400 people living in the marsh.  Prior to the eviction the city, through its police chief, promised that all the residents of the marsh would not be made to leave until there was another place for them to legally live..  The city did not keep this   promise and as a result the individuals living in the marsh became not only homeless but placeless.  Earlier this year the police floated the idea of cutting off all volunteer services to this community by severely limiting parking in the neighborhood where homeless folks congregate.  The city also asked volunteer providers to refuse to supply food and emergency shelter to anyone who had not been given police supplied vouchers. Previously the city has outlawed people sleeping in cars and begging for food and has fenced off the sidewalks on which the displaced congregated.  The city’s transportation committee did not agree with the parking proposal and the volunteer providers did not agree to cease providing services.

The city has now issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) asking for interested entities to propose means to create and operate a “day center” that would only provide a place for homeless persons to go during the day rather than being on the streets during the day.  At night, they would have to leave to sleep in the bushes, doorways, and under business eaves throughout the city. The city has made no offer to fund its proposal, has made no attempt to provide a place for the “day center” and has steadfastly refused to address the question of where the homeless might actually live.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) has been attempting to address the issue of homeless in Humboldt for the last few years.  AHHA is aware of the concerns of the business community, and others, who have experienced damage and are inconvenienced by the presence of the homeless community.  Homelessness is a significant problem throughout the nation and especially in areas where housing costs have risen beyond the means of many families and individuals whose income is not significantly above the average family income in the region.

AHHA recognizes that homelessness is a problem for the community as a whole and that Humboldt and Eureka are unwilling to devote any significant resources to the problem.  But AHHA also understands that the problem is not going to go away and that refusal to address it has led to great suffering and the waste of police and medical resources and to economic and social disquiet among the business community and the population as a whole.  We also recognize that creation of an unfunded “day center”, will have no positive impact on the situation.  Indeed it will almost certainly lead to costly litigation, both civil and criminal, and further community disruption.

AHHA therefore requests that Eureka, in cooperation with Humboldt, withdraw its request for a proposal for a “day center” and instead ask that they, in cooperation with various concerned volunteer, business and other government entities, come forth with a proposal that will allow a meaningful solution to the problem.

As communities around the country grapple with homelessness numerous models are developing which could be adapted to and adopted by Humboldt.  AHHA suggests that initially Humboldt and Eureka provide resources to assist the homeless community and concerned citizens to establish refuges for residents who happen to be houseless.  Initially these refuges might begin as camps with centralized feeding, sanitary and socializing facilities.  These camps, which would not need to be in immediate proximity to residential neighborhoods but would need to provide access to social services, could start out composed of temporary shelters.  They would be as self-governing and self-policing as possible. The initial focus of the refuges would be implementation of a strategy of “safe, warm and dry” first and then would begin to try to develop enduring solutions.  One of the models is a transitioning of shelter housing into very low cost “tiny house” communities.  These communities would presage enabling those folks who can live independently to do so.  Many of the homeless will almost certainly require ongoing social services to deal with their physical and psychological situations.  Ultimately these steps will lead to happier, more wholesome, cheaper and far more humane situations than the current strategy of trying to drive the homeless community away.

AHHA asks Humboldt and Eureka to issue a new RFP calling for the creation of refuge communities in appropriate locations in the county.  We stand ready to assist and take responsibility for and, in conjunction with others acting in good faith, to offer leadership in this effort.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Board of Directors

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42 comments

  • OK, I get it. But I always like to know where the information comes from.
    Do the anonymous and nameless signers of this letter, the Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Board of Directors, actually have names?

  • “If you build it, they will come” … and poop on your sidewalk.

    • I lived on an alleyway on 6th street for a few years and some of the things I witnessed out of my window, I should’ve have paid for, as it was better than cable at times.

      one of those was a dude pooping into a plastic bag. By the sounds of it, he was having a very hard time.

    • JustWantToHeartheEndoftheStory

      Is this the same bunch who encouraged Portland to build homeless assistance shelters close to downtown? So how is that working out? And the true story, not the “press release” speak we see above.

  • I vote for the make life uncomfortable so they self deport option.

    • How’s that workin out for ya?

    • Maybe if we make it uncomfortable here for YOU, you will leave!!!! & Please don’t Slam the Door on your way out!!!!

      • Then who would supply the victims that criminals so love to farm? Can’t be a leech if there’s nothing to attach to.

    • It appears that the more or less unspoken strategy of these local governments is to make life in this community so difficult for the homeless that they will simply “self-deport.” HOW about this. if we stop giving them money maybe they get a job. wow what a concept.

  • The tiny house village sounds quaint and pleasant but will be thrashed if not supervised, freight containers are strong enough to withstand a thrashing and remain intact. Thousands of homeless is that a number pulled out of a hat or an actual census, that is alot of tiny houses. Once that starts expect an explosion of more people, because Eureka cares more about the homeless than actual families struggling to keep housing. Not fair that thousands get free housing, food, medical care, clothing while so many families stress just putting food on the table. This subject has been tossed around for years without a solution. Most citizens are fed up, many are leaving the area. This problem is big and growing. A man asked for money the other day in winco parking lot when I said no, he got angry. Not sure how these people will react some are polite others should be considered dangerous

    • they are very dangerous. just look in there eyes. many 51/50s off there meds.

    • They cost you more $ than doing nothing, in case you didn’t realize. I understand, why pay for someone else, while you worked hard for you $ unlike them. Unfortunately, doing nothing, really only costs you more in the long run, because your paying higher taxes to cover their Er visits, arrests, addiction recovery, vandalism, etc. If they had an outlet to hopefully turn a new leaf, well that’s less ER visits, less arrests, less addicts, less vandalism=less rise in taxes. But we can just do what we’ve always done, nothing, cause that works right? I’m not sure when I look around!

  • The ideal spot to implement this plan is in Debra Carey’s front yard.

  • Jorge Cervantes

    In order to understand how our local homeless people feel you must leave your comfortable house for seven nights with nothing and try surviving on the streets of eureka. I bet almost all commentors would fail this simple task. To be homeless in USA you must be strong and resilient. To bounce back you must really be driven. These folks don’t have it easy. When out and about i choose who I want to help. I never help agro or belligerent persons. If the shoe were on the other foot you too would appreciate the help. Don’t forget We are the wealthiest nation in the world. A family struggling to keep food on the table and lights on does not have it as bad as a family living under a bridge with no table.

    • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

      Shoe on the other foot?

      How about drug screening for services, any services including volunteer groups feeding and housing.

      If they can pass a drug screen and random UA tests that is vetted enough for a start.

      As for those not able to pass a drug screening, junkies need to hit rock bottom to change.

      Enabling junkies is a complete waste- put them on a bus and ship them somewhere else.

      Expecting people to take care of junkies is ridiculous.

      • chump your right on the money. drug screen should have been going on already. i had to pass one to get a job. dont have to pass one to get free food, med, exct. how does that work.

    • Thinking allowed

      To keep the ‘shoe from being’ on my foot, I got up each morning at least 5 days a week for decades to go to work.

      I think people know darn well the miseries of living this way. The difference is simple. Most people did pretty much anything not to be there. While many homeless are amazingly creative about avoiding doing anything like work, much less passing up quick fix for personal issues of drugs.

      And, no before you go there, this does not make me special. The vast majority do the same. The people who think they are ‘special’ are the ones making the same immediate poor choices over and over. The poor results are the consequences of those choices and that’s what they hate- the consequences.

      There maybe a population in this county of 130,000. Of which the vast majority have homes of one kind or another. There may be 1000 to 2000 homeless. Yet this very small minority still manages to create misery and danger for everyone else without a clue penetrating their heads about who is at fault. Until they cease being clueless, homing them gratis will not end their destructiveness. As a solution for themselves, it only lasts until they trash their shelter and neighbors including other former homeless.

    • I was homeless for many years multiple different times in severel different places. The homeless get handed free food, clothes and often shelter. They also get free dog food, health care, all without taking any responsibility. It was obvious who wanted actual help then. The ones who did stayed at the torres shelter where they had a curfew, meals, a list of chores for everyone to do. The people who wanted to get high all day couldnt stay there. They tried and got kicked out for drinking or smoking meth on the property. I was homeless because my mother, aunt, and all the other adults around my family at the time decided to have an all out meth buffet and lost everything. Ive since quit associating with any meth users. Havent had living struggles since. My mom fell right back to the drugs as did my brother. Homeless again, all for a shit high. Having lived on the homeless side and having been sober to witness it, most people have a hilariously naive pov about the situation. Most of these folks are right where they want or deserve to be. Only people i feel for are the kids whose parents dragged them along for the ride.

  • Timothy McVeigh's ghost

    A large percentage need institutional mental help. Others are able bodied addicts who cannot and will not be helped. And some are those who have and are still on hard times that would appreciate help.
    What needs to be defined is: in a free society can it be illeagal to not have a perminate residence?
    Without this being defined I don’t see how there could be a solution.

  • I think something should be done for homeless/houseless folks, but I’m not sure how far we should go doing it.

    I’m in favor of Portland’s model, having Tiny Homes for the working poor with families trying to make ends meet, and building up a small portion of equity for something better down the road. I’ve seen it. It’s tidy, useful, well-run, and the folks living there and the community truly, truly appreciate what it does.

    I think if you’re trying to honestly work yet have a hard time saving enough– or bleeding the money you earn by paying too much to the landlord– that means a lot. It’s a more important priority and it should be facilitated. Especially if they have children. It’s a tool for getting ahead, rather than getting a simple handout.

    Tiny Homes do work, for those who want to make the most out of it.

  • My job involves serving this population. What folks don’t seem to understand is that while Humboldt County is limited in resources, there are housing resources available, but to be eligible people must show a desire and willingness to make steps towards reaching goals and being self sufficient. Government social services programs as well as local non-profits require this. Unfortunately, a large portion (not all) of the homeless community suffers from drug addiction and those trying to help some of these people don’t see a willingness to make an effort to improve their lives. Therefore, providing them with housing without them having to take any steps of their own to improve their quality of life is only enabling their use. In addition, when addiction is a factor, it seems and I’ve witnessed, that basics like cleanilness and not destroying property go out the window. So, property intended to help the person/family gets destroyed for any future tenant and trust is also lost. I think addiction is an incredibly sad disease with no simple solution, but I get not offering housing to those in the throes of addiction. Again, I don’t pretend to know a solution and the problem is complicated and growing by the day, but handing housing to folks not ready to help themselves move forward in life, does not seem to end well.

  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    If you love the bums, take a couple home with YOU. Then YOU can pay to feed, clothe and house them.

    In my opinion the vast majority of these folks do, whatever they do, by choice. Many of the “homeless” have SSI, Medicare, Medi-Cal, and other income. THAT’S how they can afford methamphetamines, marijuana, little guns, dog food, and everything else they have.

    These folks are dogging us, faking it, in order to scrounge charity from YOU, churches, and government agencies. Many bums receive free medical care, food stamps, and handouts from bleeding hearts. THEN they camp in the bushes and forests, make a big mess, frighten away the tourists, and blight the whole area.

    ALL the bums need a bus ticket to other areas, like Phoenix, Bakersfield, L.A. If they don’t want a bus ticket, they should be escorted by authorities well past the town limits, like 20 miles or so, and given a stern warning about returning.

    Nurturing the bums, giving them ANYTHING, is the wrong approach. Their lives should be SO HARD that the impetus to become a bum does not occur to them.

  • Shut down the Eel River Bridge in Benbow for a month before, during and after Reggae. Problem solved.

  • After five years of living at the bottom of I Street the bums finally won loved our little town house but couldn’t handle our cars being broken into several times each year moved to Eureka very liberal and left a little conservative it’s really sad the bay is so beautiful and all those guys do is trash it God bless them but there has to be some solution

  • Why attract more

    My cousin died a junkie in Eureka … I feel bad that Eureka had to deal his stung out self until he O.D.

    • why attract more im sorry about your cousin. i spent sometime in a homeless center. this is what i saw. most get $25 to $30 a day plus food medical, clothes, free laundry, soap . in the morning breakfast coffee free, lunch free, dinner at the church free. dental free, food stamps. So after breakfast 4 or 5 would put there money together and alcohol, meth and pot and set by the river all day and get high. this is what most did all day. went on for years still going on. why stop getting high. sounds good i might start.

      • I was homeless in chico. Same thing. Tons of churches providing food, clothes, health care, free phones and dog food. The shelter had a curfew and rules you had to abide by in order to stay. So anyone who wanted to get high or drunk didnt stay at the shelter. Some tried and got kicked out. But most just put their funds in a community bum pot to get high and wasted all day.

        • Singapore doesn’t have our problems. For example, many would remember @Michael P. Fay who was a teenager convicted of public vandalism here and was charged and sentenced to jail+fine+Caning. Caning here is a heavy punishment meted out to crimes such as rape but is also used here for a petty offense like vandalism. i lived in Asia for half my life. i have met a few that have been caned. i don’t know anyone who was caned twice . people know if they fuck up and get caught theres a price to pay. and it not going to the dentist in lock up. or getting signed up on welfare. in Laos they have re education camps. life isnt easy and they don’t put up with dead weight. here you hear people say jail isnt that bad. you dont here that out of country.

  • $1.00 per 24 hour stay, bring your own cardboard. 400 heads per day should more than cover the cost of refuse disposal and security cams/guards per day.
    They get a place to hole up and the town gets their sidewalks back. What’s not to love?

  • The housing shortage is a direct result of dope growers, plain and simple. Working folks now struggle to pay rent as greedy growers blow up houses with giant grows.

  • charles engebretson

    What a bunch of ugly people saying ugly things…collectively punishing everyone with a backpack for the stuff a few gross peoples actions is wrong immoral and against artice 13 of the fourth Geneva convention…captured al Qaeda gets more rights ..what is wrong with all of you?

  • I work with the homeless everyday. They are ungrateful, demanding, entitled and generally don’t care about anyone but themselves. You can say what you want, but in all my years, people don’t take care of what they don’t earn. They figure the first was free, so will the next. Where is it written that those working hard to provide for their own families have to provide for those that don’t. Charities fill that role, not the government. Let the government take control of a part of your life, they’ll take it all.

  • groba dude osnt trustafarian

    Ugly huh? Ugly is a society of people who laugh at normal folk who work, and just take.

    If you give a person anything, he will not appreciate it, and he may think you are stupid and easy.

    If a person works for something, or builds something himself, he will establish some pride.

    These are very simple concepts.

    Giving endlessly to the poor makes our country weak. Establishing agencies to serve them is facile and pointless.

    Being poor or choosing to live in public should be endlessly difficult and shameful. If you want to give, give work, give rehab, give clothing suitable for working.

    Giving shelter, food, medical care: this is insulting to people who fend for themselves every day, who are responsible, and who contribute. The druggie mentality in Humboldt is attractive to the homeless, but even the growers are conservatives…

    Drug addicts and the defective being supported by generous but misled society: not a way to go.

    I have worked for over 40 years, dispensing care to the poor. There are constantly more of them, but the situation has not improved. Giving is not caring. Charity merely keeps people down.

  • I lived homeless for many years as a child along with my mother and brothers. Sadly, most of these negative folks are right. The homeless really dont care as much as youd like them to. A very large number of them are homeless due to addiction and stay that way because of it. My boyfriend, his friends and even myself have offered the homeless around work like building fence, mowing lawns, simple yard work. To people holding signs that say will work for food. Answer is always the same. No. Its too much work. They dont want to work. I refuse to donate. Ive been homeless. Because of my mothers drug addiction. My mother continues to struggle being homeless due to her actions with drugs. Theres only so much you can or should do to help those who wont help themselves. That being said, living in humboldt county is difficult and expensive for most. We lived rough for almost a year out here before finding a place. Know what stopped us qualifying as renters? We had a baby on the way and when renters realized we werent interested in growing pot indoors no one would rent to us, as they wanted that weed money. People out here wanna charge you $2000 a month to rent a cat litter box because you should be growing pot in your cat box, you kow. Then the ones who dont want you to grow still wanna charge at least 1300 to rent a cat litter box you cant grow weed in. Ive lived in mendocino, lake county and humboldt areas all my life. The weed business has attracted im guessing nearly 60% of the homeless population. It has also inflated housing prices so much that unless you grow pot or make tons of money or room up with at least 4 other working room mates its very hard to afford the cost of living here. I lived in modoc for 6 years. The smallest most isolated and unpopoulated county in cali. They have high product price because they are isolated high desert community. Have to drive over 200 miles in any direction to go to a real hospital or store bigger than a stamp. They are truly rural. Humboldt charges more than they do everywhere and say its because we are rural. We arent rural, or backwoods or isolated. No excuse for humboldts price inflation. All the weed game.

  • Id like to see the humboldt community show more love to the elderly who need more living facilities or the young children suffering from mental and physical handi caps. My son has special needs and schooling and therapies are hard to get around here especially in so hum. If only the community pulled for its youth, its elderly and those with special needs like they do the homeless. Sad. Very insulting.

  • the solution will take 20 years if we start now. every community center in the US is in the same boat. in eastern MA they are spending 174 million on a tech school instead of a larger jail because they are using their brains. most of our homeless grew up here just like they grew up there. dumbass commenters in the news out there claim CA sent them the homeless, just like claims here. these adults that are on the street living the free life high as a kite are the same coast to coast and if they had the tech option as a kid they might have ended up with a job and only high as a kite on weekends. it will only get worse until a real solution is implemented and it will take 20 years from now, because the 40/50 somethings are not the one to focus on as they are not going to change.

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