The Eureka city council met on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 to discuss the now acknowledged homelessness emergency. They did not do so because of what has been, but because of what has been claimed to be for decades and longer. Like many things, if the state did not first declare an emergency – then there is, in fact, no emergency at all.
Though called “local leadership,” it seems that some in the City and County government of Humboldt only follow within the restriction of state guidelines. Just as they did with the coordinated simultaneous end to the covid emergency, they are only recognizing the homeless emergency after the state declared it as such. Guidelines which, in this situation, literary cost lives – a fact demonstrated just a day prior with a homeless individual dying from exposure at a Eureka bus stop.
Homeless Death in the Family
The recently deceased had a family member who called in remotely to the meeting, and his aunt was not shy about expressing concerns about the Homelessness Emergency. She was rightfully consumed with sadness and full of questions as to how this happened to her nephew. Her nephew who had recently moved to Eureka from Southern Humboldt, a move based on advice that Eureka is where the services are which can help someone in such a predicament.
Lost Coast Outpost reported the following:
“Cmdr. Leonard La France told the Outpost earlier today that police received a “man down” call at that location just after 7 a.m. today. Officers responded to the scene and quickly called for the coroner.
The subject was a male, confirmed Asst. Chief Brian Stephens. He said that the cause of death will not be known until an autopsy is complete, and did not have any information to share about the person’s housing status — though he did note that no attempts were made to resuscitate the man, indicating that he had been dead at the bus stop for some time.
The death comes on the eve of a special Eureka City Council meeting to discuss a new initiative to provide safe camping/tiny house villages for people experiencing homelessness. That meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at Eureka City Hall — 531 K Street.”
Local Homeless People Speak Out
There were only two actual homeless people who commented during the meeting. One of them, an older gentleman, spoke of the struggles with stigma and basic acknowledgment and dignity surrounding being a homeless individual in this community. He compared it with Jesus Christ being crucified, describing the bloody mess that was caused by the nails which punctured Christ’s hands and feet known as stigmata. He stated that when an individual is outside without shelter:
” Jesus said there will always be poor, one problem with among the homeless the stigma, there is no reason for anyone out there freezing to feel proud.”
The second homeless individual was only 20 years of age, and she spoke of the struggles young people encounter trying to go to college, work a job, and live out of a car – if they’re lucky enough to have a car. She also spoke of how exhausting it can be just trying to survive, stating that many people have been fighting for years and were just flat-out exhausted. She also spoke of not feeling welcome at meetings like the one occurring and other issues she lives with due to homelessness.
“When you say that there are 150 beds created in the last couple years I think that there are allot more homeless people than that. Many homeless people my age are going to college, hoping that one day we can afford a house, afford retirement and afford to not live in our cars.”
Community Concern with Homeless Emergency
Many other concerned community members spoke on the issue as well. A big concern seems to be falling around the timeline of when action will actually be taken. Additionally, multiple public commenters were requesting the city council stand up and quit following all state and federal guidelines … to think outside the box.
One community member asked:
“The problem is tonight, the problem is last week.
When will we see something done about this?”
Others spoke of meetings that had occurred 6 or 10 years ago and were then labeled under the guise of ending homelessness by a date that had already come to pass.
Several social workers spoke, telling heartfelt tales of their endeavors and the struggles of their coworkers. They, as well as other people, brought up the fact that this is a financial problem our whole country faces.
Multiple people mentioned that while we send vast amounts of money to other countries like Ukraine, our population remains neglected.
Hopefully, the City of Eureka can find balance in addressing legitimate public concerns and playing politics with state and federal agencies. Communicating and negotiating with state and federal funding sources is important to find quick and effective remedies for this housing crisis.