Mark Sailors: Human Bodies Litter The Roadsides In Arcata – September 1, 2010

Arcata has a lot of things going for it; beautiful beaches, majestic redwoods, rich arts, a diverse music scene, a thriving college , great schools, and some of the nicest people I have ever met.

There are however a few things we all know are problems but we let go on out of pity. In particular, I am referring to the rampant urban camping problem in Arcata. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that a place to safely sleep is a human right. We all need rest. What I am talking about is the destruction of the Marsh, The Community Forest, and even private property.

People resort to camping in the restricted areas because they have nowhere else to go. We all know that, so we turn a blind eye to the problem. Every night people leave the streets and find little protected areas where they feel like they might be able to get some rest.

On face value that wouldn’t be a problem, but it is. The “squats” are often filthy, littered with liquor bottles, broken glass, human and animal waste, condoms and hypodermic needles. This, in turn, makes it unsafe for us to use these places for what they were intended for, recreation.

My 10-month-old puppy almost cut his toe off this week, while walking on a leash, after stepping on a broken bottle just off the path in Redwood Park. The culprit was a broken vodka bottle. That just as easily could have been my daughter’s hand or, god forbid, her eye.

How many RVs are set up as long-term housing that moves from neighborhood to neighborhood? How many of those do you think take their human waste to a proper place to empty the tank? How many of us have looked out into our yards to find someone camping there?

I would love to get military recruiters out of our schools, but let’s get the campers out of our yards and parks first. That is something the City can actually do.

Long-term goals for creating transitional housing are great, but they only address a small part of the problem. Even though it may cost some upfront money, and have some insurance liability issues, I firmly believe that Arcata needs some sort of campsite where the homeless can sleep and wash, that isn’t difficult to access and is a safe, clean environment for those truly in need of a safe night’s sleep. People would use it as long as they didn’t feel they were “being watched at every turn.”

A lot of the homeless have substance abuse and or mental health issues. Wouldn’t it be better to have a place where services can be OFFERED, not pushed, where people that use needles can dispose of them properly, where parents that are on the street can guarantee a safe night’s sleep for their kids, and the police can patrol regularly to minimize disruptions?

As it stands now, we have people and animals using the streets as their own personal restrooms and bedrooms. That is how disease and crime spreads. It is disgusting, and it has to stop.

There will be abuses, there will be some people that will have to be barred from using the services, but in my opinion the benefits outweigh the problems tenfold.

Mark Sailors, owner/pilot of Arcata Kineticab, is an Arcata City Council candidate.


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  1. Robert Benson said:

    When you are right, you are right. The map is online! Page 69 of Thanks to the amazingly visionary “efforts of numerous City residents, staff, officials, and professionals who contributed to this planning effort. The interest and involvement of all citizens will continue to support the success of our park and recreation system.” Uncle SAM (Sovereign Arcata(n) Militia) Wants You to Make a Better Environment for Children! Enjoy

  2. kevpod said:

    Any militia that would have me isn’t very well regulated.

    I’d like to know more about the sites you mention, including who/what owns them and their zoning.

    Also, assuming you mean the Arcata Community Forest, I’ve not heard anyone bring any proposal for inhabited dwellings to the Forest Management Committee. Do you have specific locations in mind? The map is online.

  3. Robert Benson said:

    Working in tandem with the university; the civil militia could develop holistic nursing training, sustainable agriculture, forestry sustainability projects, ecotourism business models, etc. The university needs a shot in the arm. Pioneering holistic and sustainable living curricula could be it. We are still at ground zero in the green industry. Humboldt State could be the premier green living university. Enjoy!

  4. Robert Benson said:

    Who said military? Weaponry could be included; though, only, after a solid foundation of civics was attained. By that time, I would hope a special camp could be set up somewhere in the county. Radios are all the units would need. The focus is basic life skills education and organization.
    As to where…like I said (though open to, further, suggestions) sparsely placed throughout the city and in the community forest. The empty lot on the far side of the tracks and Samoa, somewhere near Giuntoli, several in the forest, etc..
    No installation required -the key being that they will be low impact and relatively portable. In the event of nuisance complaints, we pack up and move. There is plenty of space around Arcata. Just to clue you in…they are already camping out there. Enjoy!

  5. kevpod said:

    Nay, I shant be part of anyone’s military unit.

    “Location revisited -the solution to pollution is dilution. By limiting the size and increasing the number of the camps, we will avoid negatively impacting areas. Some camps will need to be closer to town for those with special needs and some will be way out in Ewock or Wookiee, as the case maybe, Village.”

    Not helpful. The question was, where in Arcata will you install this thing?

  6. Robert Benson said:

    Kathy Hook,
    Thank you for expressing your concerns.

    Homeless campground, no. Sovereign Arcata(n) Militia, yes! A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free City, the right of the people to camp and train, shall not be infringed.

    Funding -donations will provide everything necessary to establish a low impact camp, no permanent structures. NCRC’s difficulties securing funding are due to the City Council’s interferences, we all know that.
    Location -several, limited in size, camps through out the city and in the community forest; each with a special theme or project.

    Existing homeless services -plan will be augmented or relieved by low cost alternative.

    I concur; as a non profit, local businesses and Citizens could make tax deductible donations.

    Location revisited -the solution to pollution is dilution. By limiting the size and increasing the number of the camps, we will avoid negatively impacting areas. Some camps will need to be closer to town for those with special needs and some will be way out in Ewock or Wookiee, as the case maybe, Village.

    The camp could offer training in survival, civics, civil process, sustainable farming, holistic medicine, low impact camping, computer skills, etc.; with little more than a handful of outdated computers running linux, a projector, and some hardy tents. What do you say, Private kevpod? Let’s get regimented! Enjoy!

  7. kevpod said:

    As with predecessors advocating a homeless campground, JKnox offers no practical means of implementation. Arcata has thoroughly considered the campground proposal during hours and hours of public meetings over the past several years. The main dealbreaker is always where? Where do we locate this facility?

    The fact is, no one wants it anywhere near their homes or businesses in Arcata. Several locations – St. Louis Road, South G Street, west Samoa Boulevard – have been proposed and shot down with massive negative reaction by those who live or work in the vicinity.

    It would be nice if the advocates for this kind of facility would do more than just position themselves as idealists and outside-the-box thinkers with this kind of easy rhetoric, and really offer solutions.

  8. JKnox said:

    Wouldn’t providing shelter via campgrounds for the homeless only aid in providing a better overall environment?

    >Plus…it is a way for people to come together in order to solve issues.

    I would think some sort of investment by local businesses (tax credit) for startup and portion of maiontenance costs, matching contibutions/grants, and the ultimate goal of somehow being self-sufficient.

    Think Loud…Think with a THUMP!!

    “Never Get Caught Inside The Box”


  9. kevpod said:

    Mark’s expression of compassion is laudable, as is his documenting the presence of homeless persons lacking shelter.

    Maybe Mark or another candidate who favors a homeless campground will describe:

    • How a campground will be funded, in both startup and operating costs. The lack of the latter has hobbled the North Coast Resource Center. It wouldn’t make any sense to spend a lot of money establishing something that will be closed for lack of operating funds.

    • Where this will be located. In every public meeting that a location has been proposed, from South G Street to West Samoa Boulevard to St. Louis Road, neighbors and neighboring businesses have turned out en masse to oppose locating homeless service facilities in their areas.

    • How this facility will fit in to the existing Homeless Services Plan.

    It being political season, we can expect candidates to notify us that they are against crime, in favor of education, that they oppose human suffering and so on. Who could disagree?

    It’s our responsibility to get them to describe the specifics of their proposals, because that’s what we’ll all have to deal with if they are elected and pursue their initiatives.

  10. Kathy Hook said:

    I grew up in Arcata and Trinidad. I graduated from Arcata High and HSU. I taught school in Sunny Brae for many years. The town I loved had beautiful gardens, safe neighborhoods, good roads, friendly people who knew your name. It has been replaced by garbage and human refuse. The Plaza is full drug stupefied adults and small children. The drug money has raised rents, and turned the Co-op into a Whole Foods type operation. The gas station sells drug paraphernalia. The potholes are deep and everywhere. Mark Sailors has come up with a humane and constructive way to begin taking back the streets. It is one step toward making Arcata a better place to raise a family.

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