Homelessness

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grand Jury: No 'Silver Bullet' to Solving Homeless, Offers Strategies

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 4:48 PM

With an overwhelming rate of homelessness in Humboldt County, the civil grand jury released a report recommending four key strategies. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • With an overwhelming rate of homelessness in Humboldt County, the civil grand jury released a report recommending four key strategies.

The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury, a board of citizens impaneled for a year to look into governmental issues, released a report today making recommendations on how to address the region’s overwhelmingly high homeless rate.

The 38-page report looks back at the recommendations from the consulting group Focus Strategies that led the city of Eureka and the county of Humboldt to adopt resolutions supporting a Housing First approach to addressing homelessness in 2016.

The report states that it will take years for the affordable housing stock to catch up with the current demand and, in the interim, “our current and future unsheltered homeless will need somewhere legal to stay, both day and night.”

“While creating more usable shelter is necessary, speeding up the rate at which affordable housing is generated will go a long way to address our homeless crisis,” the summary states. “Local jurisdictions working on their Housing Elements are including creative and forward-thinking solutions to encourage production of affordable housing. Local government should incentivize implementing these solutions.”

While noting in a press release that there is no “silver bullet that will eradicate homelessness in Humboldt County,” the grand jury puts forward 10 recommendations that “if implemented, could significantly improve the quality of life for many of the County’s residents—both homeless and housed—while the affordable housing crisis persists.”

These recommendations include that the county board of supervisors revise the housing element to provide for shelter solutions and affordable housing, work to reduce barriers at existing shelters (like accommodating partners and significant others, providing space to store personal property) and find an ongoing funding source for the Housing Trust Fund. Additionally, the grand jury recommends expanding the role of the county’s Homeless Solutions Committee to include both looking at shelter projects and affordable housing, that the city and county work together to find suitable locations for both a homeless day center and a supervised safe parking program, that the county and city resume monthly meetings on shared issues related to homelessness and that they both work to develop plans to provide financial incentives for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units to house very-low income residents on their properties.

Read the full report here.

Editor's note: This story was updated from a previous version to clarify that a quote included came from a Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury press release, not the full report, and to include more information about the grand jury's recommendations.
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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Town Hall Focuses on Need for Transitional Housing

Posted By on Sun, May 19, 2019 at 2:33 PM

Reverend Daniel London opens the Town Hall event at the Christ Episcopal Church with an acknowledgment of Jesus Christ and his alignment with homeless struggles. - FREDDY BREWSTER
  • Freddy Brewster
  • Reverend Daniel London opens the Town Hall event at the Christ Episcopal Church with an acknowledgment of Jesus Christ and his alignment with homeless struggles.
Gathered in the Christ Episcopal Church on a windy and wet Saturday afternoon, nearly 40 people talked about homelessness and the need for transitional housing in Humboldt County.

Under the stained-glass windows and vaulted ceiling of the nearly 150-year-old church, Reverend Daniel London and his wife Ashley London Bacchi helped facilitate conversations with a panel that included Betty Chinn, Eureka Police Department Sgt. Leonard La France, Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel and others who are on the front lines of addressing the area's homeless people and their impacts. The event was put on by True North Organizing Network, a faith-based nonprofit that focuses on community issues and providing every person with “the opportunity to be heard and respected.”

“We are really excited to hear stories in our community about this issue and to bring a face to housing needs,” said Eve Robinson, a facilitator and leader with True North. “If we could change even one mind about housing in our area, then that was our goal.”

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Town Hall Aims to Bridge 'Empathy Gap' on Transitional Housing

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 3:40 PM

Eureka has more homeless people than shelter beds. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Eureka has more homeless people than shelter beds.

True North Organizing Network will host a town hall meeting tomorrow afternoon on the need for transitional housing locally.

The meeting — scheduled from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church at 625 15th St. in Eureka — is intended to bridge the “empathy gap” organizers feel exists in conversations about finding shelter for those currently living without. To that end, the meeting will feature “testimonials” from people who have benefitted from transitional housing.

There’s an acute need for additional shelter and transitional housing in Humboldt County, where nearly 1,500 people were living homeless and without shelter earlier this year, according to the biennial point in time count directed by the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition. That puts Humboldt County’s per-capita rate of homelessness at nearly three times the state average.

In addition to there being a shortage of shelter beds locally, there are also few options for transitional housing — or housing arrangements that get people off the streets and out of shelters, allowing them to build rental histories before transitioning into more traditional housing arrangements. A number of proposed transitional housing projects — including one from local philanthropist Betty Chinn, who wanted to use 11 donated construction trailers to house a few dozen people — have stalled in the face of neighborhood concerns.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

PIT Count Finds Almost 1,500 People Without Shelter in Humboldt

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 3:11 PM

A homeless man in Eureka. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A homeless man in Eureka.
Almost 1,500 people spent the night of Jan. 22 without shelter in Humboldt County, according to results of the Point in Time count released by the county Department of Health and Human Services.

The biennial count held Jan. 23 found that 1,473 people had experienced unsheltered homelessness the night before, more than double the number counted in 2017. That puts Humboldt County's rate of homeless people per 10,000 in population at about three times the state average of 34, according to U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development data.

The PIT count is part of a national effort to tally sheltered and unsheltered homeless people, as requirement by HUD. The numbers are then used to designate funding to help address homelessness and housing insecurity. On a single day in January, volunteers all over the U.S. head out to count and survey homeless people.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Arcata Council Advances Revised Village Housing Project

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 7:08 AM

AMCAL's David Moon addresses the Arcata City Council. - IRIDIAN CASAREZ
  • Iridian Casarez
  • AMCAL's David Moon addresses the Arcata City Council.
Arcata's The Village housing project is not dead, the City Council decided last night with a unanimous vote to reconsider the newly revised development proposal.

The project will go through three more review hearings before moving forward: one with the Arcata Planning Commission and two more with the council, including one focused on vacating St. Louis Road, said Arcata Community Development Director David Loya.

Developers presented their proposed 600-bed development to the council back in August but the council split, stalling the project.

Five months after the project appeared dead, the developer — AMCAL — reviewed and revised its plans to include an open market and to open half the apartments up to non-student community members. The revisions were publicly unveiled at an informal meeting Jan. 31 but locals still expressed concerns about impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, including parking, traffic and an influx of hundred of students. The housing project would sit on the 10-acre Craftsman Mall site on St. Louis Road, across U.S. Highway 101 from L.K. Wood Boulevard just north of campus.

AMCAL's David Moon told the council last night that the proposed 651-bed facility will dedicate half of its units to non-student residents and will include amenities like a gym and a childrens play area. It will also feature solar panels, a walking trail and car and bike sharing programs, he said. Moon was pleased to see the council move the revived project forward.

“I am very satisfied with tonight’s meeting,” Moon said. “I look forward to coming back.”
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Thursday, January 24, 2019

UPDATED: Encampment Removal Operation Near the Bayshore Mall

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 10:10 AM

EPD officers and other agencies at the scene. - PHOTO BY RYAN HUTSON
  • Photo by Ryan Hutson
  • EPD officers and other agencies at the scene.
Several agencies are “executing inspection/abatement and criminal search warrants” property near the Bayshore Mall, according to the Eureka Police Department.

The operation began at 8 a.m. and prompted the closure of the mall entrance at Bayshore Way, the EPD release states.

Blankets, clothes and shoes were hurriedly packed into gallon-sized garbage bags, as residents of the encampment began to leave this morning. Loaded trucks were driving in and out of Bayshore Way and residents helped each other throw away trash into an industrial garbage bin. An estimated 30 people living in the encampment were vacated from the private property.
The area behind the mall, known as the Devil’s Playground, was the site of a massive encampment that was cleared in May of 2016 in a major undertaking that saw more than 100 people removed from camp sites and more than 60 tons of trash collected. Read more here, here and here.
A scene from the May of 2016 eviction operation at the Devil's Playground. - FILE
  • File
  • A scene from the May of 2016 eviction operation at the Devil's Playground.


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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Volunteers Needed for Homeless Count

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 3:38 PM

A homeless man in Eureka. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A homeless man in Eureka.
The Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition is seeking volunteers to participate in its biennial count of people experiencing homelessness locally.

The count is dependent on volunteer participation and tries to quantify the number of people living without shelter on a single night. The results of the count serve as the single best quantification of the local homeless population — data that is then used to qualify for funding and apply for grants.

“The more volunteers we have, the more people we can count, which will make more funding available to us,” Sally Hewitt, the senior program manager at the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services and co-chair of the Housing and Homeless Coalition, said in a press release.

Volunteers will gather in teams the morning of Jan. 23 in order to start counts in their assigned territories at 7:05 a.m. In addition to getting a head count, the volunteers will ask people where they slept the prior night and gather other demographic information.

Read the full press release copied below for more details and contact Robert Ward at 441-4035 or RWard@co.humboldt.ca.us to sign up. Read more Journal coverage of the point in time count here.

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

CNN Names Betty Chinn 'Hero'

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 2:50 PM


Eureka philanthropist Betty Chinn has been named “this week’s CNN hero.”

The network’s Heroes series is designed to “celebrate everyday people changing the world” and showcase “how one person can truly make a difference.” The network accepts nominations annually and showcases one hero weekly, one of whom will be named the network’s hero of the year in December.

Chinn, who spent years of her childhood homeless in China, has largely dedicated more than three decades of her life to serving and caring for Eureka’s homeless population. In collaboration with St. Vincent de Paul, she opened Eureka’s first public shower facility in 2009, and has since opened a day center aimed at caring for homeless youth and providing vocational counseling services for adults, a transitional housing project for 40 adults and a family shelter that also houses homeless people recently discharged from the hospital.

The CNN video highlighting Chinn’s work also features a quote from Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Director Connie Beck intoning that Chinn does more to provide services to a portion of Humboldt’s homeless than the entirety of county government.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Capital & Main Takes a Hard Look at Homelessness at HSU

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 4:02 PM

FILE
  • FILE
Capital & Main, an online nonprofit publication, published an article yesterday spotlighting housing insecurity for Humboldt State University Students. The article, which cites a Dec. 2016 article in the Journal by HSU Investigative Reporting students,  is part of a 10-day series exploring homelessness in California.

According to report released by the California State University system in January (and co-authored by HSU social work professor Jennifer Maguire), housing insecurity is rampant throughout the university system, with 11 percent of CSU students reporting having been homeless in the last year. As cited in the article, that problem is "most acute" at HSU, with nearly a fifth of the student body having been homeless at one point the previous year. (You can find a link to that report here.)
Chante Catt standing for her 2018 graduation. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Chante Catt standing for her 2018 graduation.

Reporter Gabriel Thompson interviewed off-campus housing liaison and founder of the Homeless Student Advocate Alliance, Chanté Marie Catt, who lived in a campground with her partner, small daughter and two dogs for her first few months attending HSU. They also interviewed Jasmine Bigham, a 23-year-old transfer student who is currently living out of her car in a HSU parking lot.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Partnership Health Awards Humboldt County $1.05 Million for Affordable Housing

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 10:21 AM

image003.jpg
Partnership HealthPlan of California, the region's MediCal administrator, announced this morning it has awarded the county $1.05 million in grant funding for supportive housing units. The nonprofit also granted the Redwood Community Action Agency $1.26 million.

According to the press release, Partnership awarded a total of $25 million in grants this week for "housing-related projects across the MediCal managed care plan’s 14-county service area."

“Without a roof over your head and a safe place to sleep, it’s difficult to stay healthy,” Liz Gibboney, CEO of PHC, says in the press release. “We decided to address this critical health-related issue right where it starts – by funding projects that address homelessness and the lack of housing for the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

DHHS said in the press release that it plans to combine that funding with that of "a development partner" to build at least 30 affordable apartment units for "homeless or housing-insecure adults who are eligible for PHC."

Nancy Starck of DHHS confirmed that the county would be partnering with DanCo to build the permanent supportive housing units. A location has been identified but not confirmed by DanCo.

In a phone call, Margaret Kisliuk, a behavioral health administrator with Partnership, said that she had visited Humboldt County several times in her work, and noted a "Bay Area level of need" in terms of housing. The one-time grants came from Partnership's reserves.

"We certainly know that there are quite a few homeless folks in Humboldt County, and clearly a housing need," she said. "It seemed to be more intense in terms of Humboldt County."

Kisliuk said that the funding could also be used to renovate existing units.

We have reached out to RCAA for comment. It's not immediately clear what the grant awarded RCAA will fund.

Editor's note: This piece was updated from the previous version to include information from Starck and Kisliuk.

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