Homelessness

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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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Board of Supervisors Declare Shelter Crisis

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 12:06 PM

A camp on the Eureka waterfront. - FILE
  • File
  • A camp on the Eureka waterfront.
Following more than a month of meetings and deliberation by an ad hoc committee and intense public comment on the issue, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to declare a shelter crisis and create a committee to explore housing trust funds and solutions to homelessness.

The decision, which came after over an hour of deliberation and public comment, was greeted with applause, although it's ultimate utility – as noted by First District Supervisor Rex Bohn  – is unclear.

"Eureka has had a declarations for two years and it hasn’t done much," Bohn said. "We can make all the declarations we want but we have to do something and work together."

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dying and Destitute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 6:17 PM

Don Brown and Debora Bronson in their apartment. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Don Brown and Debora Bronson in their apartment.
Craig and Lisa Smith are running out of time. They’re dying. He has congestive heart failure and a cancer eating at his kidney. She has a severe respiratory illness and spends her nights plugged into an oxygen concentrator. But that’s not what they’re talking about today, sitting in the bed where they spend most of their lives these days in a cramped but tidy apartment at 833 H St. in Eureka.

A few days before, the city of Eureka had served the couple — and all other tenants of the long deteriorated apartment building owned by Floyd and Betty Squires — with a notice to vacate, telling them the city was condemning the property due to hazardous electrical wiring. Everyone has to be out by 6 a.m. Jan. 22. Because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, tenants were given four business days to relocate their lives. For the Smiths, the eviction notice came three days after they’d paid the month’s rent. The Squireses haven’t returned subsequent phone calls, they say.

Nikki Lang sits on the corner of the bed. She’s a social worker with Resolution Care, the palliative care team set up by Dr. Michael Fratkin a few years back aimed at helping people live out their lives comfortably and on their own terms in the face of serious — often terminal — illness.

Lang tells the couple that the city will be giving them $1,600 in relocation assistance funds — money it will later look to recoup from the Squireses, adding yet another layer to the years-old legal battle between the notorious landlords and the city.

“How is that help?” Lisa Smith, 54, asks to no one in particular, eyes fixed on the bed in front of her. “Who is going to physically carry this stuff out? Where is it all going to go? We’re looking at the ends of our lives and it shouldn’t be like this. We worked for a living, raised families. We’re good people. We should just be left in peace.”


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Old Town Residents Prepare for Thanksgiving Sock Drive

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 11:23 AM

Boxes of socks awaiting donation. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Boxes of socks awaiting donation.
Those in need of some extra warmth can pick up a pair of socks on Thanksgiving Day, thanks to the volunteers who have been accepting donations of warm apparel in preparation for the holiday.

"It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years," says Samantha Sweeney, who lives and works in Old Town. "It's a conscious refusal to take part in the stress of the holiday season."

Sweeney says that on her daily walks through Old Town she sees many homeless people exposed the winter weather.

"I myself have a family member on the street," she told the Journal.

So Sweeney hatched a plan to spend the day serving those in need. She collaborated with a friend and, within a week, the Old Town Community Sock Drive was underway. Sweeney posted notices for donations at several Old Town businesses and dropped off flyers advertising the event, which will begin at noon Thanksgiving Day at Clarke Plaza, the Rescue Mission, the Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation and other locations.


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Saturday, September 30, 2017

No Apparent Link in Cases of Homeless Men Awaking to Flames

Posted By on Sat, Sep 30, 2017 at 11:37 AM

Arcata police are still trying to figure out who set the Sept. 16 fire at the Arcata Presbyterian Church and why. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Arcata police are still trying to figure out who set the Sept. 16 fire at the Arcata Presbyterian Church and why.
The recent incidents set exactly one week apart in Arcata and Eureka appeared remarkably similar at first: Homeless men sleeping on the steps of a building waking up to flames. One was severely injured while the other managed to get out of his sleeping bag before getting burned.

Police department officials in the two cities say they immediately began investigating whether the cases were linked but evidence is showing key differences between the two. Most importantly, there was no sign of an accelerant or a broken container for a Molotov cocktail in the Sept. 23 fire at the Job Market building in Eureka near the jail, where the man escaped injury.

“I don't know if we will ever be able to conclusively 100 percent say it wasn't arson or targeted but the detective is leaning toward no at this time,” Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson said in an email to the Journal on Friday. “He did find and re-interview the man, who confirmed he didn't actually see what happened.”

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Ohio man who was badly burned while sleeping on the steps of a historic Arcata church remains hospitalized.


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Friday, September 8, 2017

Eureka Condemns 'Heroin Hilton,' Displacing 20

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 1:54 PM

Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third Street this morning. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third Street this morning.

UPDATE: Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel has informed the Journal via Facebook that she was told the city has offered all 20 or so displaced residents of the condemned  buildings the option of staying at the local Motel 6 until Monday, when relocation funds are expected to be made available. The Journal hasn't yet been able to verify this and it wasn't an offer given to all residents on site this morning.

PREVIOUSLY:
The city of Eureka condemned three properties on Third Street owned by Floyd and Betty Squires this morning, forcing about 20 people out of their apartments and, in some cases, onto the streets.

Deputy Public Works Director Brian Issa says the city felt the need to take immediate action due to hazardous, unsanitary conditions that posed a danger to residents and the general public. Tenants said they were notified first thing yesterday morning that they had 24 hours to vacate the premises and move all their stuff. Known as the “Heroin Hilton,” the apartment building at 220 Third St. has been the site of several recent drug busts, and neighbors have long complained of constant streams of people coming in and out of the building, along with pervasive drug use in and around the apartments.

“This place has just descended into chaos,” Issa said. “It’s a trap house. On any given day, there are people lying on the floor in the hallway and on the stairs with needles in their arms, feces on the floor.”

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

EPD Retracts Plans for Homeless Meal Voucher System

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 3:17 PM

Capt. Steve Watson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Capt. Steve Watson.
Eureka Police Department Capt. Steve Watson informed the Journal today that his team had scrapped plans for a controversial behavior-based voucher system that would have seen some homeless people have to exchange community service for meals at the St. Vincent de Paul cafeteria.

The voucher idea, one of many creative solutions proposed by EPD in order to address problems with crime and blight in the area around St. Vincent de Paul on West Third Street, would have been used as an alternative to sending homeless people found loitering, camping, littering or engaging in other low-level offenses through the criminal justice system. Instead, said offenders would be ticketed by officers and have their meal privileges suspended until they had done a certain amount of community service. Their service would be documented, at which point they could exchange this documentation for the reinstatement of meals.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Eureka Police Seek New Leverage Against Homeless on Third Street

Posted By on Sat, Jul 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
A recent pair of break-ins to Betty Chinn’s warehouse on West Second Street has drawn attention to the Eureka Police Department’s efforts to address crime and loitering in the area. On Wednesday, under the direction of the Public Works department, employees of Mercer Fraser erected a fence that effectively cordons off the west side of Third street across from the St. Vincent de Paul dining facility, an area that, in recent months, has been a place where many homeless and transient people have spent the day. Local business owners have complained about problems with theft, vandalism, violence and other issues, and have been meeting with the chief of police and other officials in order to discuss potential solutions.

The break-in and theft from Chinn’s warehouse appears to have been the tipping point for public sentiment, but plans to disrupt the gathering have been in effect for several months. With arrest serving as insufficient leverage, EPD has instead developed a multi-part plan, announced in May, that will “improve the overall business climate in the surrounding area.” But how exactly the plan will be implemented and enforced, and its efficacy, might raise more questions than it answers.

In the memo titled “Crime and Blight at 3rd and Commercial,” authored by Chief Andrew Mills on May 8, Mills references a 30-year history of people gathering adjacent to St. Vincent de Paul, where meals are served daily.

“However, in the past year the number of people spending the day on the sidewalk and street has grown,” Mills continues, referring to a surge in activity at the location since the city evicted a long-standing homeless camp in the PalCo Marsh on May 6, 2016. According to data analyzed by the Journal, there was a steep increase in police calls for service to the eight-block radius around the area in the months immediately following the marsh eviction.
EPD Capt. Steve Watson says both logged complaints and anecdotal evidence, as well as observations by officers, has supported the idea that there are “increasing crowds of homeless, increasing crime and disorder” in the area.


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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Up and Down Old Town with Officer Crnich

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Officer Cory Crnich - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Officer Cory Crnich
Eureka Police officer Cory Crnich’s beat stretches from Eureka’s Fourth Street north to the bay, from East Commercial Street to the library. Being the Old Town officer is a specialty position, one Crnich applied and reapplied for. He took the job in May of 2016, one week after the PalCo Marsh eviction. There’s no pay bonus but there are, according to Crnich, “unique opportunities and difficulties” that make it different from a regular patrol position. Four days a week, beginning at 8 a.m., Crnich walks up and down his beat, checking in on the people  passed out in doorways, smoking at the Gazebo and making their way toward St. Vincent De Paul for food.

“It requires a little more patience than standard patrol work,” says Crnich. “There are two different extremes you’re working with, indigent folks and small business owners.”


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