March/April Edition

Our March/April edition has hit the streets! If you haven’t found one yet, take a look around. From Garberville to Trinidad, Vol 1.3 is now available at various coffee shops, laundromats, libraries and family resource centers, hospitals, etc. Email us at humboldtedge@gmail.com if you can’t find a copy and we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction.

You can also read it online: just scroll down or read it as a PDF.

Now seeking submission for our May/June 2014 edition!

Check out Submissions for more info.

Humboldt faces shelter crisis

By Jessica Renae

HUMBOLDT COUNTY–With fewer than 400 available shelter beds and an estimated 1,600 homeless, the Human Rights Commission and Redwood Chapter American Civil Liberties Union want Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to declare a shelter crisis in the area.

Clearly there is not enough emergency shelter,” said Fox Olson, executive director of Arcata House Partnership and co-chair of Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition. “On any given day or night we are turning people away.”

An average of four to six people seeking shelter each night aren’t able to find it at Arcata Night Shelter. The shelter has beds for 20 people 12 men and eight women. And that’s just one example. Another — no men in need of shelter are able to find it in Southern Humboldt. The only shelter there is the WISH Women’s Crisis Shelter in Garberville.

from wraphome.org

from wraphome.org

That’s why Debra Carey, Human Advocate for Social Change, agreed that a shelter crisis needs to be declared for Humboldt County.

We have homeless people who are born and raised right here, yet they are constantly told to go to Eureka for services,” Carey said. “We don’t have anything. If we had anything, then I wouldn’t be calling it a crisis.”

A shelter crisis as defined by the California Government Code Chapter 7.8, is the “existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.”

In early February the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors recieved a letter from the Human Rights Commission and Redwood Chapter ACLU requesting the Board of Supervisors declare a shelter crisis in the county. Human Rights Commissioner Charlie Bean read the letter to the Board of Supervisors during their Feb. 11 meeting. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace responded via email to the Human Rights Commission, thanking them for the letter and said his board is willing to consider the issue. Redwood Chapter ACLU had not yet received a response from the board, as of this writing.

The reason I think we are in emergency crisis is because of the numbers,” said Nezzie Wade, vice chair of the Human Rights Commission. “You just can’t ignore the numbers.”

Wade was referring not only to homeless adults but also to an estimated 632 homeless children in Humboldt County, a number that comes from the Humboldt County Office of Education. The Raven Project Street Outreach Program estimates this number of homeless kids to be as high as 700.

Shelters or Housing?

Sallly Hewitt, senior program manager with the Department of Health and Human Services, explained that the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition’s main priorities are increasing emergency shelter capacity and increasing stable and affordable housing.

According to Hewitt, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving away from financing emergency shelters and transitional housing since research indicates that permanent supportive housing is more successful.

The feds are really changing their direction about what their priority is,” Olson said. “They’re actually telling us that they don’t want transitional shelters anymore.”

Instead HUD wants homeless families to be rapidly re-housed and case management services delivered in the home, similar to permanent supportive housing.

We did a rapid re-housing project and it
was very successful,” Olson said. “The feds like those big numbers, you know 900 people re-housed! But how many people actually stay housed? That’s the missing data question.”

Bonnie Hughes, executive director of Housing Humboldt, believes that housing with supportive services is the key to helping keep
those with mental health issues or those that have been chronically homeless stay housed.

Studies have shown that a person housed with supportive services uses fewer emergency services less and actually has increased income,” Hughes said. “This has a positive impact on our community.”

To this end, cities in Humboldt County and the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department established minimum square footage guidelines to make it easier to develop affordable housing.

The county wants to think smaller, more affordable, more efficient in solving the homeless problem,” said Nicholas Vogel, director of Family Services for the Redwood Community Action Agency and former coordinator for Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition.

Maybe a two-bedroom apartment isn’t the answer, let’s lower the scale size for what we are thinking about for affordable housing because there are so many homeless people that would be amazingly happy in a studio apartment.

Mia Paquette, 45, has been a guest at the night shelter for just over two weeks. She’s been folding and sorting clothing donations in a backyard storage unit. “I’m going to get this whole shed organized,” she says.

Mia Paquette, 45, has been a guest at the night shelter for just over two weeks. She’s been folding and sorting clothing donations in a backyard storage unit. “I’m going to get this whole shed organized,” she says.

Housing Crisis?

Tough to say whether there is a shelter crisis because there is absolutely a housing crisis,” Vogel said. “Humboldt County has a serious affordable housing shortage.”

The fair market rental value of a one-bedroom apartment in Humboldt County is $722. Hughes said that the recommended limit for rent is one third of a person’s income but Humboldt County residents are paying 70 to 75 percent of their incomes for rent.

Hughes believes there is a great need for affordable housing in Humboldt County. “Ukiah and Arcata both have the same population but Ukiah has 11 subsidized housing complexes and Arcata only has three,” Hughes said.

Housing Humboldt hopes to begin construction on 31 affordable housing complexes in Arcata in 2015 if funding comes through from the county and investors.

In the interim, what plans exist to get roofs over peoples’ heads?

I got an idea…portable teepees,” said Mia Paquette, 45, who spends her nights at the Arcata Night Shelter. “People could carry [them] on wheels, somehow portably to a campground, put up a tent and take down that same night, kind of like a portable tent. People can still have all their belongings with them and a place to sleep.”

Alternatives to traditional housing methods, like safe camping options as Paquette mentioned, are proposed in response to shelter capacity. Some advocates agree that if funding for shelters is unavailable then the next step is to establish a
legal campground.

John Shelter, executive director of New Directions, a program that helps homeless individuals find jobs, promotes the idea of a transitional campground, a safe place where homeless can transition on their own level to housing.

Permanent supportive housing is great but needs more capacity,” Shelter said. “We can use a transitional campground as the first step because we don’t have enough housing and because some homeless need help transitioning into housing. They can’t handle four walls.”

Micro-housing and campground villages are already being discussed by local government. Virginia Bass, Fourth District Supervisor, showed a documentary of existing shelter villages such as Opportunity Village in Eugene, Dignity Village in Portland and Camp Quixote in Olympia on Jan. 28th to the Board of Supervisors.

I think it is important to look at what other communities are doing that is helping them deal with issues that our community is facing as well,” Bass said.

Carey sees merit in the campground idea. “Some homeless want to camp and some want housing,” Carey said. “Some will go into shelters, some will never go into a shelter. Whatever the choice is there has to be a legal place to sleep.”

Olson argued that both campground and micro-housing models are flawed. “I don’t want to put people in little dog houses,” Olson said. “I’m a housing advocate. I want to push for more housing.”

Vogel on the other hand, while disagreeing with the idea that most homeless want to be outside and not housed, does think that with scarce funding, cost-effective alternatives like campgrounds and micro-housing can be part of the solution.

LeAnn Cameron, 53, who is disabled with a certified service dog, is not allowed in local shelters because she lost her dog’s certification papers. She proposes a program similar to both Mills Street Center and New Beginnings Center in San Rafael, Calif.

Mills Street Center is a homeless shelter where residents can commit to a long term stay and work with staff on ending homelessness in their lives. Mills Street Center residents graduate to New Beginnings Center where they learn job skills and participate in job search workshops, training and apprenticeship opportunities. Besides employment services, New Beginnings provides healthcare, counseling, substance abuse prevention and other services needed for residents to transition into long-term housing.

Cameron points to the lack of these types of support services in Humboldt County. “I want to go to City hall and say if you want people off the street, then do this program.”

 

Housing equity remains a myth

By Cents

Suddenly, the continuity of passing cars, sidewalk conversations and morning romance was disrupted by pairs of leather combat boots violently smacking against the pavement. My stomach dropped as I intuited why a squad of armed men in uniforms was poised on the street directly in front of the building that we had been sleeping in for the past month. Within seconds a wooden door was forced open.

The Eureka Police Department announced their entry and kicked open doors room-by-room to determine whether or not people were inside. Once they reached the bottom of a large staircase, a man shouted, “If anyone is upstairs, come down immediately before we release the dogs.”

To prevent escalation I rolled out of my sleeping bag, consolidated my gear and slowly approached the staircase with my hands raised above my head. Before rounding a corner I alerted the cops that I was non-violent and that I would be moving down the hallway and descending the stairs in their direction. I was greeted with multiple loaded guns aimed at my head. Once I reached the second to last step I was handcuffed and held in an adjacent room until my partner and our friend were detained.

We were arrested, charged with trespassing and released later that day. The problem that had motivated us to squat an unused building remained: Where are we going to sleep tonight?

What is criminal is not that homeless people sleep in abandoned buildings to survive but that it is illegal to sleep in buildings that are allowed to remain vacant and deteriorate while people die on the streets.

In Eureka, property management companies have become a concerted monopoly that reinforces bias by using coded language and privileged financial standards to discriminate against disadvantaged groups of people. While legal tenancy may be available in Eureka, this is only an option for those who enjoy an exclusive social category. For example, a minimum wage worker may be able to pay monthly rent, but can’t prove that their monthly income is three times that amount. This proof of income requirement is designed to reject poor people who would otherwise have the money to pay rent.

These institutional practices that result in tenancy rejection have had a direct impact on me, a 21 year old queer man, probably because my income is minimum wage, I was partnered with a man and I have been unhoused while applying for housing.

As someone who has spent much time on the streets, I know that vacant buildings in Eureka outnumber people living on the streets. A community based solution to house people and challenge unaffordable housing is obvious. We can start addressing this engineered crisis by organizing to shelter people in safe sleeping spaces. We have the power to reclaim private buildings that are unused and transform them into sanctuaries.

A model could be developed to appoint a volunteer-supervisor to overlook designated sanctuaries and ensure that guests are safe and comfortable. Policies based on cooperation and mutual support could be established to deal with issues such as problematic behavior; when someone should be asked to leave and substance-use protocols. If buildings did not meet basic safety standards, then renovation projects could make these spaces habitable.

From the Editor

By Lorena Boswell

What happens when you need to sleep and have nowhere legal to do so? Should you be ticketed? fined? jailed?

In Santa Barbara in 2001 the Calif. State Appeals Court ruled that although David Ridley and Julie Cooper broke the no camping law, they did so “by necessity” as there was no legal place for them to sleep. They therefore did not have to pay their camping tickets. This ground-breaking “Necessity” ruling has set the precedent for mandates to ensure adequate shelter is available in all major locales. When a location does not have enough shelter, an official shelter crisis can be declared.

Locally Dane Carr, a Eureka resident on trial for nine tickets for sleeping on public property, was sentenced in January to 140 days in jail plus fees and fines. Currently he is free awaiting appeal. During Carr’s eight-day trial, a jury was persuaded that Carr could have stayed at a local shelter.

Humboldt County has over 1,500 homeless and only several hundred shelter beds. To me, the numbers just don’t add up. Nor do they to the ACLU and the Human Rights Commission, who have asked the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to declare a shelter crisis (see p.1).

While the numbers give us a summary, I implore everyone to remember that behind these numbers human beings with very different and uniquely compelling stories. I hear them every day I sit down with people to work on this paper.

Many have limited income like Gregg Allen (see p.4) but can’t save enough for the large deposits most landlords require. Some like Grateful (p. 4) have families and friends who can offer islands of relief before having to swim back out into the storm. Some like Cents (p.1) are arrested for squatting in abandoned buildings and dream of creating sanctuaries in these spaces.

Some are dealing with sketchy situations. Like the mold infested trailer with the sagging, leaky roof, whose newly housed tenant is grateful to have a roof over her head. She has already moved more often than she can count into sketchy situations (some better, some worse, some just differently problematic) and has to choose once again whether to stay in this uncomfortable situation or to move back into her car.

Finding a stable, sane place to live when you’ve been living in unstable situations is not easy, even for this bright, articulate, well-mannered middle aged woman. There are simply not enough affordable housing opportunities or living wage jobs.

A Former Republican (p.5), used to believe that people should just take care of themselves. He expresses his gratitude for the Arcata Night Shelter which kept him from having to spread his legal documents out on a park bench, trying to make decisions about his life while he dealt with a lawyer and a court case.

Others, like LeeAnne, (in cover story), have service dogs without papers that are not allowed in the shelters. Some don’t have IDs so they can’t stay at the Rescue Mission. Some stay in violent situations to have a roof over their head. Others choose to leave the abuse to sleep by the river. At least they still have their teeth and their sanity. Some don’t even have that.

California AB 5, a Homeless Bill of Rights, was proposed to extend basic human rights to people who are homeless. If you are by necessity sleeping on an empty space of concrete or by the railroad tracks, you should not be awakened in the middle of the night where you are not disturbing anyone and told to move. When you are sleep-deprived everything is more difficult to manage.

AB5 never made it out of committee. So we need to put our heads together as a community to solve the crisis at our front door, in our backyard, and under our bushes. How do we provide safe, affordable places for our homeless/houseless? Let’s look at our law enforcement policies and at established examples of successful programs in our community and others, like the ones LeeAnne mentions (p.6) that not only provide a safe warm place to sleep, but also provide counseling and classes to help people get back on their feet.

Whistler’s Other Mother

by Half A Centurian

Half a Centurion, who due to many challenges including complex PTSD since childhood, has taken only one art class: an adult ed. life drawing series in her forties, that totaled 24 hours over 8 weeks and in which she drew many unrecognizable scribbles until suddenly producing this drawing. Currently living in her car she is too terrified to try to draw or do anything but try and survive and take care of her dogs who are her only family in this world and who were deathly ill strays found outside an apartment she lived in before becoming homeless.

Dear Humboldt

Thank you for helping raise up the voices of people our society and our economy have not valued as worthy of life. It’s tragic and ironic that Father Eric Freed, who advocated for loving-kindness for all people, was brutally slain by a person whose life and needs had not been honored. But Martin Luther King Jr. was right: “We are all held in an inescapable network of mutuality. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” even in the parish house of St. Bernard’s.

I don’t think we need any more evidence that not properly caring for one another is a danger to us all. I don’t think we could have a better example of a person taking serious responsibility with the resources he had than Father Freed.

Tragically, many of us with many more resources do not yet truly understand that we all are truly inter-related. Our society and our economy in so many ways still pit us against one another and engender’s disdain and hatred for one another rather than the mutual awe, reverence and creative support we deserve.

Betty Chinn’s efforts and your own newspaper are examples of what can happen when individuals open their hearts and minds to the humanity of everyone. Imagine what could happen if more of us opened our hearts and if more of us collectively worked to shape our society and our economy away from the winner take all mentality that leaves mentally ill people in agony on the streets and beloved priests dead in their bedrooms.

The prophet Isaiah really has it right: “Woe unto us when we join house to house and field to field until everywhere belongs to us and the orphan and the widow have no place to lay their head.”

Individually and collectively, I know we can all do better.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Bryan D. Jessup, Minister

The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

I Thought About Bridges

by D. Reaves

One night I had no place to sleep
I sought shelter.
I felt weak.
I sat on grass, it was too cold.
I sat on the bench.
There were no buses, so I roamed.

I knew right then
I was “on the street.”
That this night would be long.
I thought about bridges
Where others might live.
I questioned my very existence.
My worth passed through my mind.
I walked and walked to no avail.
I wondered: where are the kind?

By morning I was freezing
Right before dawn seemed cold
Today I’ll walk and find the kind ones
To see if I can find out where
Today will be warmer….
Somewhere so I don’t roam.