Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Numbers from the PalCo Marsh Cleanup

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 10:40 AM

click to enlarge Jimmie Work, a marsh holdout, moments before being ousted by the police. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Jimmie Work, a marsh holdout, moments before being ousted by the police.

The Eureka Police Department has released some information from the May 2 and 3 cleanup of the PalCo Marsh, in which over one hundred homeless people were displaced and/or rehoused. According to the press release, more than 60 tons of trash were collected in the two-day operation. Dozens of sharps containers, used to safely store hypodermic needles, were also filled. Eight people were arrested: one protester on Monday, five for outstanding warrants and two for camping illegally elsewhere on Tuesday. It appears as though no one was arrested for refusing to leave their campsite at the PalCo Marsh.

In this week's Journal, on newsstands now, we have detailed coverage from the two-day operation, including a summary of how many of those displaced actually sought shelter and services. According to our math, at least 60 people remain unaccounted for since the dispersal. Many people attended last night's city council meeting to voice their displeasure with the May 2 operation and lend support for a "tiny house" village proposal from Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives. The proposal was turned down by the council, saying it did not meet their requirements of being temporary and not requiring city funds.

From the Eureka Police Department:

On May 3, 2016, the City of Eureka wrapped up the clean-up operation at the Palco Marsh. The police enforcement and property maintenance operation had been in the planning stages since March 19, 2016, when the City Council announced a firm May 2nd exit date for all illegal campers at the Palco Marsh.

The City of Eureka worked with several shelter organizations, animal rescue groups, DHSS, MIST, and other community partners to relocate many of the individuals living in the marsh into housing or temporary and transitional shelters. Eureka Police collaborated closely with other agencies to plan and implement the operation while ensuring the safety of the homeless living in the marsh, city work crews, and officers. The extensive planning helped to ensure a safe operation that was completed much more quickly than anticipated.

An estimated total of nearly 114 tons (228,000 lbs) of trash was collected during the two day clean-up. On Monday alone, more than 60 tons were collected. That number is comparable to a one day collection of garbage within the entire City of Eureka including commercial pickup. Dozens of sharps containers were filled with used hypodermic needles and collected by Eco Medical.

A total of eight arrests were made during the course of operation. One female was arrested Monday for refusing to leave the operational area as a statement of protest. Seven individuals were arrested Tuesday while police teams were conducting follow-up enforcement in nearby greenbelt areas. Five were contacted and arrested for unrelated warrants and two were arrested for illegal camping just outside the Palco Marsh.

Campers leaving the area who could not take their belongings with them were given 96 gallon totes to store their items for a period of 90 days. Other items too large for the totes were placed on pallets, secured in plastic wrap, and also stored in large weatherproof containers. The City of Eureka will ensure that property is stored and secured according to applicable laws. Appointments can be made with Eureka Police to claim property stored for safekeeping.

Eureka Police and Humboldt County Animal Control officers, as well as several rescue groups, were available on scene to assist with any animals. No animals were seized, surrendered, or taken to the shelter.

The Eureka Police Department will continue enforcement throughout the Palco Marsh and other greenbelts areas in the city. Camping in any City park or greenbelt is strictly prohibited. Anyone who notices illegal camping in a City greenbelt or park should contact the Eureka Police Department.

The success of this operation could not have been possible without the hundreds of people who worked together as a team under challenging conditions. The Eureka Police Department extends our thanks to all the City and County employees, private businesses, and volunteers from numerous organizations who contributed so much throughout all stages of the Palco Marsh operation.  

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