Arcata could house homeless in parking lots

Mad River Union

ARCATA – The City of Arcata could house homeless individuals in parking lots to help reduce their exposure to the Coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19.

The City Council Wednesday night renewed its declaration of a local emergency, something the Arcata Municipal Code requires it to review and do every 14 days.

City Manager Karen Diemer reviewed actions taken by the city over the past few weeks. The Arcata Skate Park, plus tennis, basketball and Bocce ball courts have all been closed to help discourage disease transmission. Those who have ordered compost bins will get them delivered free by the city. 

The City of Arcata seal.

Coronavirus-related expenses are being tracked, and a filing deadline for reimbursement requests from the Office of Emergency Services and FEMA is coming up on April 17. FEMA will soon announce just what is reimbursable. 

The city is working with renters and landlords to understand how to implement the eviction restrictions that the council approved last week. It is also working with businesses interested in the city’s new Business Resiliency Emergency Loan program (BRELP), which has $250,000 to distribute to businesses affected by Coronavirus-related closures. BRELP is intended to help Arcata businesses survive until more substantive aid is available from other sources.

The city is also working with Arcata House Partnership (AHP) and the Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to protect unsheltered and houseless individuals presently camping at various ocations in Arcata and who are at elevated risk of Coronavirus exposure.

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FEMA funding may be available to place some individuals in motels, including those over age 65, those with pre-existing medical conditions and those who are disabled. AHP and the city are trying to identify and do outreach to those individuals.

Diemer said APD contacted people at the campsites, and many were agreeable to relocating to a more secure spot.

Diemer said some local churches may be available for emergency sheltering of homeless individuals in tents on their grounds during the shelter-in-place period. The city would provide porta-potties and hand washing stations, paid for with county funds. Totes would be supplied for waste disposal with help from Recology, and mental health outreach conducted as well as “some level of food delivery.” 

City-owned locations could include Vinum Park, the presently underused parking lot near the Intermodal Transit Facility and those located at Seventh and G and Eighth and H streets.

City-owned sites in Aldergrove Industrial Park are too wet for immediate use at this time, though Councilmember Paul Pitino urged that grading and other preparation be undertaken to create more permanent homeless housing facilities there. Aldergrove has previously been discussed as a site for homeless housing.

Diemer said other property owners, including federal and privately owned parcels in Arcata, have been contacted about possible use of their properties for housing unsheltered individuals. Some of these locations are preferable to the parking lots, Diemer said, but their use hasn't yet been secured.

The website has been updated to identify Arcata businesses that remain open during the Coronavirus response, including restaurants, retail, grocery stores and more. Restaurants which deliver are also listed on the evolving Humboldt To Go Facebook page.

Diemer said the situation is rapidly evolving, with decisions being made daily "trying to improve the situation."



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