Homeless Meeting in So Hum Gets Heated
Tempers ran high at a meeting about homelessness in Southern Humboldt. The Sheriff had to be called to keep the peace. The meeting which was held at Supervisor Clif Clendenen’s office rapidly grew to close to 40 people. Last night on KMUD (listen to the interview here) Clendenen expressed surprise at how many people were in attendance. There were advocates of both sides of the issue and all variations in-between. Two of those in attendance were Paul Encimer, homeless advocate, and John Casali, who began the non-profit Eel River Cleanup Crew which both employees homeless to cleanup trash and is reviled by some homeless and their advocates for throwing away bedding etc belonging to the people in the camps.
Attendee Rebecca McFarland was still agitated this morning about the hostility she met last night when she tried to speak at the meeting. “As I spoke, I heard homeless yell out, ‘You’re nothing but a lynch mob.’ It was crazy…The homeless were screaming foul rude things like ‘KKK’ and ‘why not just walk us all into a gas chamber.’ This is wrong…As a community, we have a right and responsibility to deal with and meet on the issues at hand…With hate speech like that, how are we to find any solutions?”
The passions at the meeting underscore a deep divide within the community on how to deal with issues that arise around homelessness. A porta potty in a public park recently had advocates and business folk at odds. A fight over the installation of razor wire on an empty lot in Redway reportedly pitted construction workers against homeless and ended with one of the land owners being bitten.
Supervisor Clendenan, speaking on KMUD, worried about the divide and how hard finding a resolution has been. The difficulties at yesterday’s meeting he said, “…underscore how far we have to go.” Nonetheless, both Encimer and Casali felt that the meeting was productive and hope to soon have another more facilitated meeting with structure that will help keep passions in check and allow for meaningful conversation.