Mad River Union
EUREKA – An activist has released a video taken last Sunday, Oct. 30 which shows the squalor and misery of living conditions in a city sanctioned homeless camp along the waterfront in Eureka.
The video, by Nezzie Wade of Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, was taken during a calm between rainstorms. The camp is located in a fenced area on Marina Way south of the Wharfinger Building in Eureka.
The fenced area contains a ports-potty and a bunch of tents on a muddy lot. Campers have to splash through puddles to get to their tents. Some of the tents are sitting in puddles. One woman shows Wade water-logged bedding in her tent.
The video was released just before the City of Eureka unexpectedly announced that it is closing what it calls its "overnight sleeping program," which allows people to camp at three designated spots in Eureka, including the mud pit on Marina Way. As of today, people must vacate the premises.
“Eureka's homeless are forced, at threat of arrest, to sleep in this mud and squalor,” states a press release from Wade. “These conditions are inhumane and unhealthy in the extreme. The video speaks for itself and we ask you to help it be seen by the residents of Humboldt Co. It is obvious that the strategy adopted by Humboldt County and the city of Eureka is to make the homeless so miserable that they will go somewhere else to die.”
“AHHA, Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, has entreated, indeed begged, these governmental entities to allow us space to create transitional refugee camps that can relieve this human misery and, over time, to develop lasting solutions to this travesty. We have met only refusal. We firmly believe that if the good people of this county were aware of what these governments are doing in their name they would help us put a stop to it,” states the press release.
The City of Eureka issued the following press release, explaining why it was closing the camps:
The rotating temporary sleeping areas in the City of Eureka were originally established to assist homeless individuals who were illegally camping in City greenbelt areas earlier in 2016. For the last month the sleeping area attendance has diminished to an average of about 20 sleepers per night. The City and County have worked together to house 73 homeless individuals through the “30 homeless in 60 days” program. Additionally, Betty Chinn has assisted in housing over 100 individuals since the first of the year, with 40 of those receiving help through Betty’s Blue Angel Container Village and 43 persons have found employment.
Since the establishment of the temporary sleeping areas, staff has received numerous complaints from surrounding businesses, citizens who use the public areas, homeless advocates and the homeless regarding the conditions of each area. A significant increase in theft, graffiti, violent confrontations and assaults have occurred in the surrounding neighborhoods of these sleeping areas.
53% of violent crime reports in the last quarter involved homeless transients either as the victim or suspect. Due to the high rate of violent crime and theft it has been determined that in the best interest of the community, the temporary sleeping locations need to be discontinued. Those individuals that desire a place to rest will be directed to the Eureka Rescue Mission and Betty’s Blue Angel Village. The order to discontinue the sleeping locations was made by the City Manager after weeks of discussion and consultation with senior staff, including the Chief of Police. The decision was made in the best interest of the City of Eureka and all of its citizens.
Enforcement of the City’s illegal camping, (EMC 93.02) will continue during the daytime. Tents cannot be erected anywhere during daylight hours and property cannot be stored in public areas. Nighttime enforcement will be complaint driven and private property owners are encouraged to call EPD dispatch should they observe illegal camping occurring on their property.
City officials will continue to work diligently with the County of Humboldt, the Eureka Rescue Mission, St. Vincent DePaul and others to continue efforts to reduce homelessness in the City of Eureka. The City of Eureka looks forward to the re-establishment of Betty’s Blue Angel Village at the City owned lot on West Washington Street, the opening of Betty’s Family Center, and the 15 units at “The Lodge” which have been dedicated to housing homeless senior citizens. The City of Eureka’s success to date in reducing homelessness is due to the level of collaboration and partnership with these organizations.