By Abby Martinez
It’s a typical cold winter morning in Eureka. The sun is nearly up and a white coat of ice covers most of the cars parked on the street. Many folks leave their houses early make their way to school and work but other members of our community wake up to just another cold day in the streets.
With recent closures of encampment areas and the relocation of shelters and camps more people are continuing to resort to new areas to seek safety and stay dry.
Debra Arlette, 54, has been homeless in Humboldt County for over 10 years and has yet to find a place to call her own. Arlette described the struggle of finding a place and how chaotic it has been.
“ Its non sense,” said Arlette. It’s very hard to find housing, we should all just get together and rent a house.”
Like Arlette many people find that being able to live on their own is such a struggle for many different reasons.
A year ago, residents of one of the largest homeless encampments in the Palco Marsh also known as “The Devils Play Ground” were expelled. Some relocated north to an area close to the Del Norte Pier. A camp was set up by the city with portable toilets, water and trashcans to have a better set up for those who were moved. Community members thought this was the beginning to a new way of solving the homeless problem in the surrounding areas but it was not. Not only have encampment been relocated but also the recent closure of the popular Budget Motel has left many people without housing, forcing most of the residents to resort to living in the streets.
Jake, 59, who declined to state his last name says that housing is limited around the area and the very few opportunities he had at applying to a place shut him down for many reasons,
“I don’t have any recent rental history and they want it,” said Jake. “I get social security but its not enough, we need housing first”.
Jake, like many other people who are homeless, said he appreciates the county’s recent decision on creating the 30-60 Housing First campaign in Humboldt. The campaign was originally set up to housing for 30 people in a 60-day goal.
Sue Carn is a county social worker that works with the North Coast AIDS project., which provides housing assistance to individuals who are homeless and have an HIV diagnosis.
“It’s hard to find our clients housing,” said Carn. Carn explained the difficulty on not being able to find housing for individuals even when money is not an issue. “Our program provides individuals with rent assistance, yet the problem is that there’s no housing available.”
Carn continued on to explaining the difficulty of finding homes that are meant for just a single household. The majority of the housing that is available are for large families and often those homes have a high rental price.
Chris Hanson, 35, has been homeless for most part of his life. “ I’ve slapped two grand in front of the most biggest slumlord in Eureka and he still denied me,” said Hanson. “They just don’t want us.”
For the most part it seems like homeless stigma and discrimination is a creating a gap between homeless people and their ability to get housing. Not only does Hanson battle with the difficulty of finding a place and being denied he also mentioned harassment from the county officials.
“I’m frustrated, they say they’re going to help us and they don’t keep their promise,” said Hanson, They tell us we can stay in certain places then the police show up and kick us out.”
Hanson like many others express their concern for the lack of commitment to build homes for the homeless community as it was mentioned before. For the most part many people continue to push on the idea of creating tiny homes for people to just stay dry and warm during the cold rainy winters up here.
Tamara Filiminov, works in downtown Eurekain a small locally own shop. Filiminov said most small business folks understand people without a home just need a small place where to sleep and stay warm and dry.
“Weekly there’s always someone sleeping in the front of our door,” said Filiminov. “Especially with the rainy season, most owners around are really understanding, we know they just need a place to sleep.”
Guadalupe Long works at the DHHS Wellness Center where a homeless individual has been sleeping outside the establishment for about two months now.
“There’s a young man that’s a veteran that sleeps upstairs,” said Long. “We know it’s cold. We give him coffee and he respects the space and always tidies up.”