Homelessness

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.

So far, Sweeney and the other volunteers have received 150 pairs of socks, some of which were purchased with donated money. Sweeney says more have been pledged. Muddy Waters also donated some coffee to serve during the event. Rain is predicted for much of the day tomorrow. According to the event's Facebook page, donations of socks and snacks are still being accepted. Those interested can drop off socks at Talisman Beads until 4 p.m. or contact Sweeney through the sock drive's Facebook event page.

The event will go until 4.p.m. or whenever the volunteers run out of socks.

Editor's note: This blog post was updated to reflect the correct name of the coffee donor. The Journal regrets the error.

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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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Sunday, June 4, 2017

TL;DR: Our Favorite Quotes From This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 12:47 PM

grumpy_mills.jpg
Hey readers, we know that reading 4,500 words can be a slog for some in the fast, digital world. Even if that 4,500 words is about something as fascinating as the city of Eureka's many, varied attempts to address the entrenched homeless camp in the PalCo Marsh and the accompanying emails we obtained from public records act request, it is a long article. (Give thanks to the editors, because it used to be much longer.) But take heart, because we get you. After taking a whole year to pore through those emails, and several weeks to write the two-part series distilling them into something that would fit into our pages, we're ready for a brain break too. So we compiled some of our favorite quotes from the article into this listicle, along with some GIFs we feel capture the spirit of the exchanges.


1. "Easy turbo ..." – Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills, responding to a passive-aggressive comment from Parks and Recreation director Miles Slattery about SWAP funding and EPD responsibilities.


via GIPHY



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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tent Cities: An Expert's Opinion

Posted By on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 9:00 AM

A camp on the waterfront. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A camp on the waterfront.

In the lead-up to the PalCo Marsh vacation, city and county officials and members of the homeless working group, emailed around articles with suggestions for what worked in other cities and states. Among these was an article written by Iain De Jong, titled “Tent City: How to Respond Effectively.” De Jong, a consultant and professor of community planning and housing at York University, is credited with having effectively resolved tent cities and encampments in more than 100 cities, mostly on the East Coast. As part of our research for our two-part series, we emailed De Jong a rough timeline of events to get an outside expert's opinion. (You can read in-depth coverage of this story on the Journal's website: Part 1, "Prelude to a Sweep," describes the decades-long issue that led up to the May 2, 2016 eviction of the PalCo Marsh and Part 2, "Swept," dives into the decision-making process and infighting that preceded the marsh's final days.)

De Jong was not consulted by the city but, after looking at the Journal’s timeline of how Eureka responded to the PalCo Marsh encampment, described what he saw as a “dysfunctional response.”


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Friday, June 2, 2017

EPD Pitches Homeless Day Center

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 11:52 AM

J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka.
A recent entry by Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills on the EPD blog addresses the issue of people loitering around the St. Vincent de Paul dining facilty at Third and Commercial streets. Local business owners have complained about an increase in vandalism, drug use and camping in the area. EPD data obtained by the Journal shows a sharp jump in calls to the eight-block area around SVDP immediately following the eviction of PalCo Marsh residents, although EPD officially says many of those formerly living in the marsh have been housed, and the people in the SVDP area are mostly new faces from out of town, drawn here by the promise of work in the marijuana industry. A group of business owners met with Mills and Councilmember Marian Brady to discuss their concerns on May 5.

"Business owners, manager[s], and residents have complained of the high level of disorder including drug use, discarded needles, fights, disorderly conduct, large amounts of litter, and bodily waste left in the alleys and surrounding properties," a memo from Mills reads. "People block sidewalks, graffiti buildings and harass pedestrians and motorists. Business has suffered from lost customers, vandalism, and theft. In addition, businesses are concerned for the safety of their employees."

To address this problem, EPD is recommending a multi-phase plan that will include meeting and communicating with the 30-40 people who tend to congregate in the area, then using diversion techniques to reduce complaints. That might include suspension of services from St. Vincent de Paul for some individuals for a temporary period of time. Police may also ask people to clean up an area or perform other tasks to get a voucher that they can exchange for "meal privileges." SVDP may also shut down the facility during a "crisis period."

"To restore services, the individual may be required to perform a community service: clean up trash, pull weeds, paint out graffiti, etc.," Mills states in the blog. "Once completed, they can get a voucher to re-establish services."

The city is also soliciting proposals for a new "day use" area, where people can stay during the day and store "limited amounts of private property." The six-month pilot project "must be easily accessible to the city by foot or bus, but does not have to be in the city." Proposals are due by July 1.
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Key Players and Their Emails (A Companion to This Week's Cover Story)

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:52 PM

swept.jpg
This week's cover story, "Swept," takes a deep dive into the Eureka city government's collective thought process as it planned to clear the PalCo Marsh of homeless encampments over the course of more than a year, culminating in the May 2, 2016 sweep that resulted in the relocation of more than 100 homeless people.

To report the story, Journal staff writer Linda Stansberry pored through more than 11,000 pages of documents obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act. Below, you'll find a handful of bios aimed at giving you a better understanding of some of the key players involved in city's decision making process, as well as a a selection of the emails we received from each. In addition to providing a more detailed look at what city leaders were talking about in the months leading up to the sweep, the emails should give you a taste of what Stansberry experienced, right down to the city's silly redactions of public employees' work email addresses and phone numbers. (You'll even get to look at one email that's formatted to have a single letter on each line and stretches across more than a dozen pages.) But don't worry, we're sparing you all the non responsive and duplicate ones. (For more on those, read last week's editorial here.)

And, make sure to go back and read the cover story!


Greg Sparks
  • Greg Sparks
Greg Sparks
Hired March 6, 2014, Sparks arrived to take Eureka’s city manager position from West Des Moines, Iowa, where he held the same post. In Eureka, Sparks has had to confront a much different set of challenges than he faced in West Des Moines, a Des Moines suburb with a population of about 56,000.

Most notable are the economic differences: The median household income in West Des Moines is $54,000 compared to just $25,000 in Eureka. And with that income disparity comes a much larger homeless population in Eureka, which has one of the densest concentrations of chronically homeless people in the country. Looking back on the city’s handling of the homeless encampments in the PalCo Marsh, Sparks said he wouldn’t do anything differently, adding that homelessness has proven a huge challenge for cities throughout the state.

Read a selection of Sparks’ emails here.



Andrew Mills
  • Andrew Mills
Andrew Mills
Hired as the city’s new police chief Sept. 11, 2013, Mills came to Eureka from San Diego, where he’d worked as a cop for 30 years, with stints commanding both the city’s eastern and western districts. Originally from Michigan, Mills has strong background in problem-oriented and community policing, and became well known in San Diego for neighborhood walks with community partners.

Mills told the Journal he knew homelessness was going to be a large issue for his department when he took the job, but said he underestimated the depth of the problem and how much time his department would spend wrestling with it.

Email exchanges between Mills and other city leaders, as well as some members of the public, show that perhaps more than anyone in city hall, Mills was reticent to clear the encampments in the PalCo Marsh without having another designated space to send the people living there.

Read a selection of Mills’ emails here.



Miles Slattery
  • Miles Slattery
Miles Slattery
A 1994 graduate of Humboldt State University, Slattery returned to the North Coast in May of 2006 to work for the city of Eureka after a seven-year stint in San Diego, where he worked as a chemist. Slattery joined the city of Eureka as a project manager in March of 2006, became the city’s deputy public works director in November of 2011 and its parks and recreation director in 2013.

Somewhat of a firebrand, Slattery has been vocal in urging the city to invest more in its parks, believing active recreation and engagement by city residents would go along way to deterring “inappropriate uses” of public spaces and make the city safer.

With his department at the forefront of the city’s efforts to clean out the PalCo Marsh, Slattery’s frustrations boiled over at times, which is visible in the selection of emails you can find here.



Rob Holmlund
  • Rob Holmlund
Rob Holmlund
Hired as Eureka’s community development director in 2014, Holmlund is an East Coast native who came to HSU to get a master’s degree before getting a job with GHD Planning and Engineering.

Since joining the city, Holmlund has helped usher in a new medical cannabis ordinance, a pilot parklet project and a re-envisioning of the Eureka waterfront. As to the homeless issue, Homlund seems to have bought into the Housing First philosophy adopted by the city but has otherwise been fairly silent publicly.

Read a selection of his emails on the subject here.


Natalie Arroyo
  • Natalie Arroyo
Natalie Arroyo
Elected to the Eureka City Council in 2014, Arroyo came to Humboldt County from New Orleans, where she was living happily until Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Arroyo currently works for the nonprofit Redwood Community Action Agency and is in the midst of an 8-year contract with the U.S. Coast Guard, where she works as a marine science technician. Taking her seat as a member of Eureka’s first all-female city council in 2015 — her first elected office — Arroyo was immediately faced with the issue of homelessness and, more specifically, what to do about the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Arroyo’s emails here.




Kim Bergel - CITY OF EUREKA
  • City of Eureka
  • Kim Bergel
Kim Bergel
Elected to the city council in 2014, Bergel is a Eureka native who worked in elementary education as a one-on-one aide.

Bergel’s big campaign issue was traffic safety, as she’d served on the city’s traffic safety commission for six years. But upon taking her seat on the council in 2015, Bergel threw herself into the homeless issue, and more specifically trying to help people living in the PalCo Marsh. She visited the marsh almost daily, developing relationships with almost all who lived there.

Read a selection of her emails here.







Melinda Ciarabellini
  • Melinda Ciarabellini
Melinda Ciarabellini
Appointed to the city council by Mayor Frank Jager in 2011, Ciarabellini served six years before deciding not to seek reelection last year.

A Humboldt State University graduate, Ciarabellini worked for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for 30 years before retiring as a correctional captain. She came to the council intent on bolstering the city’s public safety departments and focusing on economic development.

Ciarabellini became a prominent and forceful voice in the council’s passionate debates over what to do with the PalCo Marsh. Read a selection of her emails here.



Linda Atkins
  • Linda Atkins
Linda Atkins
First elected to the council in 2008 and termed out in 2016, Atkins served eight years on the council. A retired engineering associate, Atkins was seen as the sole “progressive” voice on the council for a couple of years until 2015, when she was joined by Arroyo and Bergel.

Atkins was the driving force behind the city’s shelter crisis declaration, which later proved integral in setting up the shipping container transitional housing village run by Betty Chinn and the rotating free sleeping areas set up in city parking lots. Both were important parts of the city’s defense of a lawsuit seeking to halt the May 2, 2016, eviction of the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Atkins’ emails here.
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