Steve Madrone: Remember the most vulnerable

These are difficult times. We are all suffering in some way or another. This is a time to look out for each other. We are #alone/together. Sheltering in Place is difficult, but imagine if you had no shelter.

Homelessness is a complex problem. It is a complex population. There are many reasons for why one may not have a home. During this Pandemic it would be a good idea if we could improve the sheltering conditions for the homeless. 

Very few residents want a homeless shelter near them and yet not doing something is costing the homeless and all of us dearly. What is the current cost of how we are dealing with the issue? Let’s look at that. What are the increased virus dangers of folks wandering around the community touching doorknobs and car handles to survive?

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According to Sheriff Honsal we are spending $60,000 per year per homeless person in Humboldt County. Senator Mike McGuire says the average state wide is $100,000 per homeless person per year. That is for some services, lots of emergency room and hospital costs, crime, vandalism, garbage cleanup and theft. Basically millions of dollars being spent not actually solving the problem. Just reacting to the effects and results of not treating the problems.

So what do we do? It is complicated and we are not going to solve everything all at once. We are in an emergency. 

So the question I am asking the community is can we do more for the homeless? Can we create safe parking lots for those that are living in their cars. Can we create safe camps for those without cars that want help? Not everyone wants help or can accept that help but many do.

Wouldn’t it be better if we had some safe places for folks to get into more sanitary conditions, while not congregating too many to one place? We would need the Sheriff and Health and Human Services and non-profits and churches helping out and providing services and food.

I think its important to try and believe when we dig deep to help others we may be able to find a way to do more. Thank you to all of you for what you are already doing, and keep it going. We will rise together.

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I do not know where the best places are to do these initial and temporary (during the Shelter in Place) efforts, and appreciate your input on these ideas. If we move forward it will need to be with significant community support. I am listening.

I know many of you are also struggling with continued expenses, with no income for some time now. 

Unemployment has not come in yet for many and the stimulus checks have not arrived. Food is getting low and utilities need to be paid. For many we are not far from being homeless ourselves.

There is help out there. Talk with your landlords and make payment arrangements. Most landlords want to work with their tenants. Rent will still be owed but time to pay can be given. There are orders to avoid most evictions during these times. Utilities are also supposed to be left on. There will still be debt but as payments arrive it will get better. 

There are food resources at the McKinleyville Family Resource Center. Call ahead at (707) 840-0905. Food for People can be reached at (707) 407-0447. For information and/or enrollment in GR, Medical, Cal Fresh, CalWORKS and other benefit programs call the DHHS Call Center at (877) 410-8809.

Tenants can get help at Legal Services at (707) 445-0866. Landlords are connecting with their mortgage holders for payment considerations as well. 

Businesses should call the Small Business Development Center at (707) 445-9720.

You can also call the Covid Joint Information Center at (707) 441-5000 

Over the next few weeks we will begin opening up some more businesses once the Governor lifts the mandatory Shelter in Place Order. To do this we will need to stay masked and each business will have certain measures in place to reduce any spread. We need to move slowly and cautiously with an abundance of testing. .

Be safe. Wear masks. Practice safe distancing. Wash your hands. And please send me your thoughts on helping the homeless with sheltering and sanitation. Thanks.

Steve Madrone is Humboldt County’s Fifth District Supervisor.



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