Homeless in Humboldt County: An early cast of characters

By Marion

“Then I met the founder of the American Homeless Society, Ruben Botello, a former Marine, and a backer of Cesar Chavez. He also did several hunger strikes in Humboldt County”

I was from LA County. I had experienced the 1965 Watts Riots first hand at 12 years old. My father drove us through Watts to see the action. I was impressed by what I had seen. After the fire, there was a relative calm in South Central LA and the gangs dedicated themselves to the improvement of the community under the leadership of Bunchy Carter, a former gang member and later leader of the Los Angeles branch of the Black Panther Party.

In 1974, I moved to Humboldt County to go to school at HSU. When I arrived I was amazed. I traveled up Hwy 5 to Redding and received a major shock when I turned west down 299 toward Arcata. I had never seen such beauty in all my life.

When I arrived I met Raven and Doobie who I met on Clam Beach where we lived from July until December. They were both homeless Vets out of the Vietnam War. Raven is the best friend I have ever had. Already fulfilled with good soul music, I was introduced to message Rock and Roll, learned survival skills and how to live cooperatively for the benefit of all and I learned to love nature more so than living in boxes.

Then I met the founder of the American Homeless Society, Ruben Botello, a former Marine, and a backer of Cesar Chavez. He also did several Hunger Strikes in Humboldt County. He was working on finishing at HSU so that he could get into law school at the time. He would let us crash at his house on occasion in 1974.

My first experience with homelessness really began when I started to visit the Eureka Rescue Mission in 1976. I heard Minister Jim Durkin the founder of Gospel Outreach out on the South Spit Jetty and again later in El Verbo, Guatemala.

When I visited Gospel Outreach one night, an Outreach minister called me up to redeem my “ill ways.” He then called for his followers to come up and put their hands on my head and then asked me if I had seen the light. I admit I was freaked but retorted that I hadn’t experienced anything unusual. He then repeated the prayer and I repeated my former answer.

Later, I stayed overnight and asked for a blanket but was given a sheet by the custodian. I froze that night and decided to head back to town the next day. I do believe this may have been Rios Montt.

Rios Montt later ran a coup d’état against the former president in 1982, ministered the Church of the Word, committed the genocide of many native Mayans leaving thousands homeless, imposed Jim Durkin’s “Beans and Bullets” program and was dubbed “King of the New Testament.” He was supported by several televangelists such as Pat Robertson and members of the Reagan Administration.



Lessons from the Edge

by Lorena Boswell

Education, economics & quality of life

by Gary Mack
“A non-profit administrator responded as if I should accept mediocre health care from a clinic because it was the only show in town willing to accept Medi-Cal.”
Upon considering the meaning of news and opinions published since December in Humboldt’s printed media, a statement author James Bryce made in “The American Commonwealth” came to mind: “The government of cities is the one conspicuous failure of the United States.” Mr. Bryce passed away 92 years ago, but in some ways his observation still has relevance today in 2014.

Whether local, national, urban or rural, contemporary news periodicals apparently say most Americans have been experiencing, in varying degrees, a decreased quality of life. Some say a spiritual crisis is also occurring.

For example, after Rev. Eric Freed was murdered last winter (by a non-homeless person) a former Humboldt resident submitted a letter to the Times-Standard editor saying, based on her personal experiences she didn’t believe the county’s police and mental health departments “got it” when it comes to controlling and reducing crime or providing measurable help to drug abusers and the mentally ill. She concluded: “The inmates are running the asylum in Eureka.”

Then when examining Eureka’s crime and its sources, newly recruited EPD Chief Andrew Mills said an “underground, outlaw culture” likely contributes to this area’s crime problems. (Feb. 7 North Coast Journal) This outlaw culture may also contribute to the school bullying discussed in the NC Journal’s “Unequal Opportunities” (Jan. 7). It’s as if along with quality of life, a socially subversive part of our population is incapable of appreciating “quality of character” is also vital when it comes to evolving ourselves into a safer, sounder, more just and accountable community.

The Humboldt Edge’s Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue contained a letter advocating for improved health care and police/investigative services in the county. “G.R.” wrote that after his brother had been assaulted the EPD failed to take a report and ignored or overlooked crucial evidence related to the incident. G.R. further explained his brother was taken to Semper Virens as a “5150” (i.e.: a possible threat to himself or others). But after being held for 24 hours the SV staff “was satisfied that he didn’t have any mental illness.”

Among G.R.’s intelligent assertions, state and county policymakers should especially consider his question; Are Humboldt’s police “using psychiatric holds to arrest homeless (or low income) people whom they cannot arrest for any other reason?” (Note: Local policing problems may be exacerbated by what the Nation Magazine recently called “‘federalizing’ local police agencies.”) Moreover, whether physicians, counselors or office support staff, do health care providers ever deliver substandard service to patients they have deemed politically incorrect? Two reasons I inquire is due to being duped 25 years ago (i.e.: when I was a young naive adult) by a politically manipulative family therapist, and more recently a non-profit administrator responded as if I should accept mediocre health care from a clinic because it was the only show in town willing to accept Medi-Cal. Perhaps in Humboldt the Hippocratic Oath no longer exists or it only applies to the wealthy?

During a CNN interview arranged in Hong Kong six months ago, former NSA data analyst Edward Snowden stated, “By manipulating data the NSA is capable of reducing any citizen to nothing.” (This could explain occasional tampering I’ve experienced for about 8 years with a few business and accounting activities, or erroneous info appearing in my healthcare and legal records.) Though it’s refreshing to read “Snowden’s leaks are already propelling good legislative action (in ‘Amnesty for Snowden’ Feb. 10th The Nation),” a 5-year-old could tell us unwarranted invasion of privacy contradicts what America is all about.

How shameful it is if our leaders are unwittingly allowing the U.S. to become a country where eugenics is routinely practiced. Or a place where the judicial system’s punishment of political tyrants and white collar or thug criminals usually doesn’t prevent them from committing further crimes.

Therefore, if we can persuade ourselves and our politicians and corporate leaders to become more law-abiding, it will do wonders for both our urban and rural quality of life.

For those desiring to reduce neighborhood blight and American culture’s “dumbing-down,” DA Paul Gallegos’ assertion that “Investing in and reforming our educational system is a vital task worth our undertaking, because research shows a strong correlation between lack of education and criminality” is well worth listening to (Feb. 6th NCJournal).

In conclusion, when considering the life quality for “we the ninety-nine percent,” the effects of globalization, and the civil regulation of capitalism, please consider this passage from writer John Dos Passos’ “The Big Money,” published in 1936 during the Depression: “America our nation has been beaten by strangers who have bought the laws and fenced off the meadows and cut down the woods for pulp and turned our pleasant cities into slums and sweated the wealth out of our people, and when they want to they hire the executioner to throw the switch.”

Do you think this is the type of nation and economic system our founders hoped to establish? I believe America is capable of so much more.


Another Way To Do Shelter and Housing

by Edie Jessup


“There are other ways to achieve the elimination of homelessness in our area.” “YCSPI is a place for second chances.”


I have just returned from Alfred, Maine, and the York County Shelter Programs, Inc. I went back to visit YCSPI, where I worked for 8 years in the 1990’s. What I saw there, after 16 years absence was stunning. A model of addressing homelessness that was exactly the opposite of what I have seen in California and Humboldt County.

YCSPI has developed over time the ‘overnight to life’ model of addressing the issues underlying homelessness, and providing 24/7 responses that ensure stability for the houseless, very poor, addicted and mentally untreated individuals on the streets. Right now, this program embodies the whole ‘continuum of care’ for its clients, through one agency which assures that services flow directly to the client thus ensuring the highest independence possible.

YCSPI has over 400 beds in a variety of supported housing. Housing alternatives all follow emergency and transitional programs as part of 24/7 beds and individualized treatment programs. They are licensed for substance abuse and mental health treatment. They own over 30 properties representing various permanent housing options for clients who have been through their programs in emergency and transitional shelter. The annual budget for the YCSPI is over $5 million. They have carried case management, as needed, to their permanent housing, that includes shared housing, individual, and family housing.

YCSPI is a place for second chances. If you have successfully progressed through shelter programs and into community housing, and you need to come back to the shelter briefly for stabilization, that is possible, without losing your permanent housing. They have a 200 acre farm where recovering residents produce organic food for Portland, Maine, Farmers Markets and a community kitchen. The vocational program at the shelter involves the Bakery, where baked goods are produced for sale, food for the shelter programs, and their community feeding programs. They have a ‘no questions asked’ pantry for the community, where residents work providing food for low income families in the community: to prevent their becoming homeless. Show up, and you can get food for your family.

Residents of the shelter begin job training where they are at. If they can begin working even one hour a day that is a success. The result is people regain community respect for their participation. Over 1/3 of the 85 employees were former residents who have succeeded, been trained to work with other clients, and been supported in getting their GED’s, BA’s and MA’s and clinical substance abuse and mental health licenses over time. The employees all are paid over minimum wage, with benefits.

So, how did this develop into a housing continuum for over 400 clients currently? The Shelter started out in 1985 at the old York County Jail, leased for $1 a year, converted slightly into rooms with shelter beds. But from the outset, the emergency shelter was committed to providing individualized programs for attaining the highest independence possible, with full respect for the effort and support of housing, food, health care needed by all clients. When YCSPI did not have the services in house, they either advocated for their clients to receive community based services or built the services in-house. Community partnerships have led to purchasing housing properties and working with their Community Action Program (like Redwood Community Action Agency locally and the Housing Authority at the state level).

There are other ways to achieve the elimination of homelessness in our area — other than a misunderstood notion of what ‘Housing First’ means: shelter 24/7, from day one; time to recover; engagement with case management on site; substance abuse and mental health programs on site; work that benefits the community; and the ability to stabilize lives with permanent, truly affordable housing.

What York County Shelter Programs with a second chance commitment to people has accomplished is a very small recidivism rate and ongoing support as long as needed. We could learn to do that here in Humboldt.



On a misty Sunday morning

by Jessica Renae

On a misty Sunday morning in Eureka, Angela Thompson, 35, and her husband, Jared Jowett, 22, shared with me their story.

I started out in Wyoming, working in the gas and oil industry. I started on my own company and was general manager of another one, making about $150,000 a year. One day, I stopped in a Pilot Flying J truck stop to get an energy drink and found this big guy sitting under a tree. (Thompson laughs and looks over at Jowett.) I asked him and a couple of his friends if they wanted to go for a ride, took them all with me and married him seven days later.

The oil field decided to move to North Dakota so we lost the work and didn’t have the ability to pay all the bills. So with him having four years experience in traveling, I decided since he tried out my world, the house, the money and all those things, it was time for me to go try out his world so we would have a better understanding of each other. So I went home free and we started traveling.

We ended up hitchhiking into Texas and met a really neat couple who let us sleep in their camper in the front yard while remodeling their bedroom. They were evangelists and spoke in tongues to us and told us we were being called to ministry. We met three different evangelistic people on our journey who got our wheels turning, thinking maybe we were here for a higher purpose. So we headed for Redding where there was a bible college we were told we were supposed to attend. We had it rough there so we hitchhiked to Arcata and have been in Humboldt for about a month.

We found out we are pregnant two and a half months ago in Texas, so we decided to make Eureka home. We’ve been trying to find jobs and use all the local resources, but it’s proven to be really hard to get a job here. There are great resources for food like St. Vincent de Paul, CalWorks, CalFresh and some churches; you’re not going to go hungry here.  But finding a job and actually getting a place has been extremely difficult.

We’ve been going to Betty Chinn’s Day Center because she’s got resources there to get your resume together and has a lot of job postings up. I just got done applying for a general management position at a Motel 6 that I am definitely qualified for, but it just matters how open minded the employers are since I’m homeless and trying to get back on my feet.

There are some housing resources here for families like RCAA and MAC, but they don’t do dogs and we’re not giving up our dog, Anchor. We are trying to get into the Winter Shelter program and have an interview with them soon. It’d be nice to get into that so we can wake up with a shower, comb and a mirror in the morning, so we can look presentable for an interview.

In Texas, the people were extremely kind to us, but it seems like here people are just bombarded by homeless people wanting things and they all pretty much give you the cold shoulder. They’re tired of seeing it. It’s something in their daily life. Other places you go it’s not so in your face, people are kind of interested when they see you like I wonder what their story is. Whereas here, they automatically just have their opinion because they see so much of it.

For me, who’s not from the streets, not a drug addict, being out here has been kind of hard because I see so many young kids who are addicted to meth, heroin and other drugs, and I wish there was something that could be done to help. It’s nice to see programs for people who are under 21, like social events and different things to keep people entertained but it’d be nice to see resources for people over 21. It’d be nice to open up something with a bowling alley, pool tables and coffee. Just to have something constructive to do and keep people’s minds off of this sadness out here. It just seems like a lot of people are hopeless out here, just frustrated on not being able to get what they want.



Born with a broken Halo

By Steve

Wizard Steve

We are Not a tailless monkey playing follow the leader. We are the eyes, ears, lips, hips and fingertips of the Universe and we have a tale.






My parents divorced at my birth. My facial deformity was too much for my mother to afford, so my father took me with him. An honorable man, ex­Marine just home from service, he did his best.He did the right thing! Having a hair­lip caused a speech deformity also. My step siblings regarded me as retarded and named me “Maggot.” I wasn’t just abused. I was tortured on every possible level they could find. As the youngest and smallest I was defenseless no matter how hard I tried.

At age 3 my earliest memory is of me trying to stab my step­brother in the foot with a knife to try to make him feel pain also. I failed. I think it was a plastic knife. I got no love, no emotional support. I was traumatized so severely that my emotional growth ceased at age 9.  I was beaten down at every turn for 15 years. I ran away. I tried suicide. I got drunk. I even failed at drinking myself to death. I was so inadequate, inferior, insecure, and been lied to, abused, accused and misused. I was through!!!

Or so I thought. It’s not possible for me to be in a mature relationship with a woman. All attempts in 35 years have failed with Heartbreak. When I realized I would never find love or have a family is when it finally happened.

I died. I don’t know how long I was dead, but right before I died, while I could see my life in front of me, there were these glowing pearls of light. The rest of my life was like ashes, so I gathered up the pearls knowing they were my friends’ love for me. I didn’t find anything on the other side. I felt nothing. I felt empty and I felt dark. But, I had PEARLS!!!

So I used their light to create an island with a waterfall pond in the center. The pond lets you see the effect you caused in life. The next thing I know, I’m back in my body but I’m different now. I’m really super happy to be alive!!! I see beauty in everything that I didn’t see before. I’m so happy, I dance in circles sometimes.

I got to Washington, D.C., and was immediately drawn into the classroom. I started speaking to students from everywhere, Georgetown, UMD, American University and local high schools. I worked at the White House with Prop 1, a nuclear activist group. I participate in “Dream Bridge” a group who helps children blinded by Agent Orange.

I want to be the greatest blessing to humanity I can be! The reason is, before I died and was the lowest man on Earth, someone loved me anyway and they shared their soul with me to the degree that a remnant of their resonance made it into the empty place and saved my soul. It wasn’t just one person. I had several pearls.

I came here to meet my mother for the first time. Apparently I have a nephew who goes to HSU and my mother and I were supposed to get together. When she didn’t show, I had an emotional relapse. Being abandoned by your mother is bad but twice is more than I was prepared for.

I might have had some kind of breakdown after my absentee mother didn’t show. Thankfully, Mary Wade and Hillarie Beyer at the McKinleyville Family Resource Center were there for me. It’s the sweetest place in town and I call it Marysville. I love them! I seek out humanitarians. And I want their soul prints for my Universe. They have my first flutes; the McKinleyville FRC is by far the kindest and gentlest receivers of people in crisis I’ve ever come across. I’ve studied to be a grief minister after losing my childhood. The Universe sent me to the right people for my own grief healing recovery.

Life is GOOD!!!!

I started to leave Humboldt when the Occupation came into existence. I just happened to have nothing to do, so I made pancakes for everybody. I’m still unsure of what really happened with the Occupation but I got to make a lot of great friends here. I got to live on campus for two semesters.

The students at the Mushroom Club, CCAT and Drum Church are the living Gems and Jewels of the Universe!! We are very fortunate! They let me play music with them all the time. They have my flutes. They call me Wizard Steve. I love them!!!

I prefer to produce my own energy. I make saltwater batteries, thermal electric generators (TEGS), and thermal panels. We are entering the Golden Age of Ambient Energy! By learning non­invasive energy production, we become closer to being able to create our own Universe!!!

We are Not a tailless monkey playing follow the leader. We are the eyes, ears, lips, hips and fingertips of the Universe and we have a tale. Our story, our song, the way we move is what we are. When we share ourselves openly with someone we resonate with, a harmonic transfer occurs, and we form an eternal bond.

That’s the pearl; it’s what you want more than anything else. It’s what we want to do. I don’t do alcohol, tobacco, weapons, gasoline or money. I consider them all a drug. I am a Non sexual. Mostly because of my childhood. I believe in Honor, Integrity, Courage and Honesty. I want to be a Gentleman, and Service is a privilege.

I am not a soiled son; I’m more like a Son of the Soil.

This is true and I love you too!



We miss Coffee Jim (1948-2013)

by Bill Mash


coffe Jim crop

Every community has a Coffee Jim – a person living on the fringe of what society is comfortable to look upon with love and compassion.

Coffee Jim told it like it was – a street-wise codger who didn’t shy away from life’s difficulties that surrounded, and oftentimes engulfed him.“The soul of the street,” says Terry Hogan, aka Coco.

Debra Carey, a longtime friend and homeless advocate adored him. “He was really polite, an old-school type, a road dog, a hobo,” Debra said.

She continues, “He was our elder on the streets. He taught the young travelers how not to trash our town. Pack out what you pack in. He had a soft, gentle voice that was questioning the Lord when we met. The community had so marginalized him that he couldn’t live another winter outside. We helped him get his S.S.I. which he used to purchase a small mobile home. He playfully referred to it as his retirement home.”

Coffee Jim lived in this humble home over two years. Tragically the very thing that provided comfort and safety from decades on the streets engulfed him in flames as he slept. It was the Thanksgiving season, a time to reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives and in our community. At once fitting and ironic.

Debra recalls, “He called me Ma. Every time I dropped him off back at home he knocked on my car before I took off. It was his way of telling me he was thankful for the ride and that he loved me.”

Folks like Coffee Jim rise above hate and miscasting to impart gobs of wisdom and hope using their God given weaknesses and strengths. They leave an imprint a loving eye always sees.