HSU's enrollment push collides with Humboldt's housing crunch, leaving students in the lurch
By HSU Investigative Reporting students
...During 2016's fall term, HSU housed just over 2,000 students on campus. Another 1,200 students are locals. That left an additional 5,200 students to find off-campus housing...According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Arcata has 7,722 housing units within city limits, 34 percent of which are owner occupied. That leaves 5,097 rental units to house those 5,200 students, along with anyone else who wants to live in the city...
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Proposal For Declaration of Shelter Crisis
in Humboldt County
According to the city of Eureka's chief building official Brian Gerving "The current estimate for the homeless population in our city hovers around 2500 people". This number is certainly not a 'hard' number and it fluctuates slightly from one year to the next, but almost all agree that it isn't going to drop significantly in the foreseeable future. People who are homeless are people who by definition have very few options, and they find themselves in the situation they are in not out of choice but precisely out of the lack of any other choice. One thing that everybody agrees on whether they are homeless advocates or people who simply want the homeless to disappear is that the homeless situation in Humboldt county as it is is neither tolerable or sustainable.
Governments across the country from the state of Utah to the city of New York have calculated that the cost of criminalizing homelessness in the form of incarceration, police and court costs, emergency room hospitalization and the like are much higher than the costs of providing housing and social services to the same homeless population - according to some calculations by as much as 300%. Constant policing, evictions, arrests for quality of life crimes, jail costs, the cost of cleaning up the mess left by homeless encampments only to have them replaced by new homeless encampments elsewhere adds up to a lot of money spent in a monumentally unproductive way. Emergency room visits by people who have left their health to deteriorate to the point of crisis are orders of magnitude more costly to the public and to the individuals involved than normal health maintenance. And all these costs don't even take into account the cost in terms of the damage done to the people involved, who will be back out on the street again regardless of how much they have been traumatized or how much their short time off the street has cost the taxpayers.
it is time that the county, the taxpayers and the homeless themselves recognize that this problem is not going away. Homelessness is a reality that will have to be addressed or it will continue to fester and spread, to the detriment of everyone involved.
A short walk through any homeless encampment will reveal a great amount of ingenuity among the residents, who want nothing more than to help themselves and make the best of a bad situation. Local citizens and non-profit groups are also very resourceful when it comes to helping those in need. In the case of the homeless on the other hand, legal obstacles and the lack of a safe place for the homeless to be make almost all attempts to better the situation difficult, temporary and in many cases illegal. The simple act of designating a safe, legal place where homeless people can be would unleash a cascade of improvements that would cost the taxpayers nothing.
Humboldt residents are passionate about keeping their open spaces safe and clean, making their towns and cities livable and attractive to tourists and shoppers, keeping their parks clean and safe for themselves and their children and improving their quality of life in any way they can. Leaving the homeless with no options is therefore not an option. If people have no place to go they will congregate in public places, parks, open spaces - precisely the places meant to improve the quality of life for the whole community. No amount of police action can change that basic reality. We either share those spaces with them or we find a way to give them a place where they can stay warm and dry and get some sleep, so that they at least have the chance to be productive citizens. This is not the solution, it is only the first step if we want to change anything about the current situation.
California law provides for the declaration of a Shelter Crisis when any community finds itself unable to find adequate housing for the people who can't afford or can't find adequate shelter. Declaring a Shelter Crisis has many benefits for the government entity involved and helps to clear the obstacles that would ordinarily prevent or obstruct action to mitigate and solve chronic homelessness. It facilitates and helps to expedite many solutions and mitigations that would otherwise be illegal or held up by months or years of red tape. It also allows governments to take action without the threat of being held liable for unforeseen consequences of providing shelter to those who need it. To quote the Code itself, Government Code Section 8698-8698.2:
"'Declaration of a shelter crisis' means the duly proclaimed existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety."
The government agency declaring a shelter crisis - "...shall be immune from liability for ordinary negligence in the provision of emergency housing…"
"The provisions of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation, or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health, or safety shall be suspended to the extent that strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder or delay the mitigation of the effects of the shelter crisis."
In other words the government entity may designate a place where people without housing can stay without risking any liability except in the case of "grossly negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct which causes injury". That entity could either appoint private non-profits to administer shelters or provide shelter itself without running the risk of being held liable for harm that might come to someone being sheltered. It also means that building codes, anti-camping ordinances, ADA requirements, health and safety codes that prevent or delay sheltering people would be suspended in the areas or facilities designated by the government entity declaring the crisis. In other words people could be allowed to provide themselves with emergency housing of any kind until permanent housing is found.
This of course would not 'solve' the problem of homelessness, but it would be a very low cost way to begin to move toward a solution, and it would provide an immediate place for people to go other than parks and other green spaces. Once people are allowed to sleep safely through the night, studies have shown that their mental health will improve dramatically, their abuse of drugs and alcohol is more likely to decline and their productivity as citizens is likely to improve along with their ability to find and maintain work.
Declaring a shelter crisis costs nothing, it clears the way to humanely remove homeless people from unsafe, unsanitary encampments, and it establishes a path to mental health and productive citizenship for people trapped in a viscous circle that destroys lives and tarnishes communities. The alternative is on display in a dozen places throughout the county, it isn't pretty and it isn't getting any better.
October 20, 2016
By John Hardin
Closed For decades, green paint and a leaking roof housed Garberville's heart. In May, it stopped.
The Garberville Veterans Hall, once home to holiday meals, classes and community meetings, was shuttered in May after county inspectors found dangerous levels of black mold.
Gold Star Mother Esther Underwood lost her son, John Haynes, the first American soldier from the Garberville area to die in World War II. But from her grief — and her generosity — the John Haynes Memorial Veterns Hall grew and, over the years, the Garberville Vets Hall, as it is more commonly known, became the heart of civic life in the Southern Humboldt community. On May 23, that heart stopped beating when county inspectors discovered unhealthy levels of black mold growing in the walls and ceiling, and ordered the hall closed.
When Bud Rogers challenged Estelle Fennell for the 2nd District seat on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, they faced off in a debate at the Vets Hall in Garberville. When county code enforcement officers brought guns to an inspection on Titlow Hill, SoHum people filled the Vets Hall to capacity to demand an end to those heavy-handed tactics. When the community debated whether to establish a public restroom in Garberville, we argued about it at the hall. Whenever we try to figure out what we will do, as a community, about anything of substance in Southern Humboldt, we discuss it at the Vets Hall.
The hall also includes a branch of the Humboldt County Superior Court, a small courtroom where, during certain hours, people can pay traffic tickets or have their cases heard by a judge. Or at least they could up until this spring. According to Hank Torborg, current commander of VFW Chapter 6354, which runs the Garberville Vets Hall, a 2nd District supervisor long ago convinced the veterans that they had a better chance of getting their hall approved if they agreed to have a courthouse in the same building. This political arrangement caused some grumbling among vets. However, it is more than 60 miles from Garberville to Eureka. The branch courthouse in Garberville makes it easier for everyone in Southern Humboldt to deal with court matters and, no doubt, made it possible for more of them to make their court dates.
Not only that, but if you've ever attended a meeting, a workshop or a lecture in Southern Humboldt, or taken a class, or attended a birthday party, a wedding, a reception, a wake or a funeral, chances are it happened at the Vets Hall. If you live here, of course, you know about the community Thanksgiving dinner that takes place at the hall, even if you haven't spent the holiday there yourself. Thanksgiving at the Vets Hall is a huge, all-volunteer effort with a long history. Throw in Christmas dinner with a visit from Santa, and it's clear the Vets Hall has become the heart of our community.
It's simple logistics, really. Say you teach dog obedience training and you live in Alderpoint, 12 miles east of Garberville, up a steep, curvy mountain road. If you advertise for students, you will get one in Ettersburg (16 miles west of Garberville), another in Myers Flat (15 miles north), a third in Piercy (20 miles south), and one more student right in Garberville. It only makes sense to meet in Garberville, and the Vets Hall is the most reasonably priced multipurpose space available. As the SoHum community continues to grow, so too has the importance of the Garberville Vets Hall to community life.
Torborg, the local VFW commander, knows the story behind the John Haynes Memorial Veterans Hall better than most. The story begins shortly after World War II, when a group of mostly World War I vets got it in their minds to open a new Veterans Hall in Garberville. They had tired of the cold, damp Fireman's Hall and wanted a place of their own with a kitchen. They started a fundraising campaign and held a steelhead fishing derby.
By the mid-1950s, the vets had raised more than $9,000. They approached Underwood about purchasing the property she owned on the corner of Conger and Locust streets in Garberville, but Underwood insisted on donating the land to the cause, meaning the veterans suddenly had the money they needed to begin construction.
Underwood deeded the land to the vets, who formed The John Haynes Memorial Building Association. In turn, under a provision of state law that allows the property to be managed publicly, in perpetuity, as a memorial veterans hall, the vets deeded the property to the county. Apparently, the political decision to include a courthouse in the same building led many vets to fear that the county was trying to take over their hall. This led to a somewhat contentious relationship between the Garberville vets and the county of Humboldt right from the beginning, and the John Haynes Memorial Veterans Hall appears to have been something of a thorn in the county's side ever since.
Meanwhile, other changes were underway in Southern Humboldt. As back-to-the-landers began showing up in greater numbers, they started holding their events, parties and boogies at the old, cold, drafty and damp Fireman's Hall. Friction between these newcomers and the established townspeople, including many vets, increased as more and more hippies moved into SoHum. Tempers flared and meetings were held, but tensions between the two groups finally exploded one night in 1983 when an arsonist torched the Garberville Fireman's Hall, burning it to the ground.
The fire left the Vets Hall as the only affordable rental in Southern Humboldt. No effort was made to rebuild the Fireman's Hall. Instead, the back-to-the-landers formed a group called the "Mateel," for the two watersheds they occupied, the Mattole and the Eel, and commenced their own fundraising campaign to build a hall of their own. These newcomers, still reeling from the violence of the arson but also beginning to feel their oats as the fledgling black market marijuana industry began to grow, vowed to come back stronger than ever. Instead of building an all-purpose hall, the Mateel community opted for a concert venue.
They had their reasons. I never went to the old Fireman's Hall, but I can attest that the Vets Hall, not unlike a lot of multipurpose community buildings, has terrible acoustics and it's likely the Mateel folks got tired of holding their boogies in awful sounding rooms. Who could blame them, especially in that era of FM stereo, audiophile component systems and half-speed master recordings? So, the Mateel built a great sounding concert hall and installed a top-flight sound system, which stands as a testament to the community's deep respect and appreciation for the performing arts. There's only one problem: The Mateel Community Center is just too expensive to rent for dog training, a club meeting or a whole lot of other things that make a community function.
The Mateel charges between $800 and $1,000 a day to use the hall, with extra fees for cleaning and use of the lights and sound system. It offers a discount rate for nonprofit organizations, but compared to the $20 to $25 an hour the Vets Hall charged, there's really no comparison. It is possible to rent just the bottom floor of the Mateel by the hour, but it still costs more than twice as much as the Vets Hall.
Even as the Mateel Community Center rose in prominence, the SoHum community became more reliant on the John Haynes Memorial Veterans Hall for everything from seniors exercise classes to circuit-bending workshops for the Southern Humboldt Amateur Radio Club. As the years passed, Vietnam vets succeeded Word War II vets, and the lines between hippie and straight began to soften. To help ease tensions and build community, the vets started hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone in the community was invited, and everyone was invited to help.
The event proved so popular that they decided to do it again for Christmas. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the Vets Hall have been a SoHum tradition for more than 30 years. One year, the vets served more than 300 people for Thanksgiving and every year at least a couple hundred spend the holiday at the hall, this in a town with a total population of around 1,000. Additionally, the vets and the local Kiwanis collect Toys for Tots every year, store the cache of donated toys at the hall and, every Christmas, Santa comes to distribute them.
Meanwhile, the roof has leaked for as long as anyone can remember. The lack of a service contract with the county led to considerable rancor between Garberville vets and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors in the ensuing decades, but the vets and the county finally came to an agreement that clearly established who is responsible for the hall's maintenance on Sept. 17, 2002. The agreements notes, "The county and Garberville veterans associations have been living, somewhat tenuously, under terms of a 1985 agreement that expired in 1987. The attached agreement is the culmination of years of negotiations, and represents, staff submits, a mutually satisfactory arrangement."
The agreement also tells us: "Veterans, years ago, without county permission, replaced part of the roof at a cost of $7,567. The county in fiscal year 1999-2000 reimbursed the veterans half the amount ($3,784) and offered to reimburse the remaining half ($3,783) on signing of a new agreement." The new agreement clearly delineates responsibility for maintenance and repair of the hall, listing roof repair and replacement right at the top, under county responsibilities. According to Torborg, the roof leaked at the time the agreement was signed.
At this point you are probably wondering what's the problem with the roof of this building. It stems from the fact that, like a lot of other public buildings of the era, the hall has a flat roof. Back in the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, people loved clean, modern Bauhaus lines, and those boxy, flat-roofed designs looked so good on paper no one could resist them. Architects sold thousands of sleek, modern-looking, flat-roofed buildings to communities just like ours, and damn near every one of them leaked chronically. The Garberville Branch of the Humboldt County Public Library, right around the corner from the Vets Hall, has the same problem.
With the agreement of 2002 in place, the veterans turned their focus to the interior of the hall, making several improvements, including a new hardwood floor. Unfortunately, the chronic leaks in the roof have damaged a lot of these improvements. On a recent tour, Torborg pointed out places where water has damaged a tile floor, stained carpeting, shorted out a TV and damaged ceiling tiles, explaining that each of these had been due to different leaks at different times.
Each time they noticed a leak, the veterans informed the county of it. Occasionally, the county even sent people to make repairs. According to Torborg, "They'd send somebody out with a bucket of black jack to fix a leak, on a flat roof, where the whole roof needs to be replaced." One can only deduce, from the county's own mold report, that the county's maintenance of the Garberville Vets Hall had been inadequate to the task.
One of the county's repairs has been a fixture in the hall for many years: a 2-foot-by-2-foot shelf mounted overhead and out of reach on the internal wall between the main hall and the kitchen. On the shelf sits a large cooking pot. A hose attached to a bung on the side of the pot leads down the wall and out an open window. It's hard to say where they found a stock pot with a bung, or the proper hose to fit it, but these are the miracles of Humboldt County procurement. Unfortunately, the wall around that shelf is now infested with black mold, as are several other locations in the hall, including the veterans office ceiling.
The smell of mold permeated the building on the recent tour led by Torborg. The cramped office looked like it had been used that day. The desk had papers on it. Plaques hung on the wall near dress uniforms that hung in a row with filing cabinets lining the wall. Clearly the closure had come as a surprise, but a torn away piece of ceiling tile revealed the infestation.
Apparently it was someone at the court who asked the county to inspect the hall for mold. The court occupies about one-third of the building exclusively. Mold may have become apparent in the judges' chambers or the courtroom before anyone noticed it in the hall, but Kathy Wolman, who used the hall for many years with the Feet First dance troupe, said she smelled mold in the Vets Hall and knew the building had a problem long before the inspection proved it. Once the test came back positive for unhealthy levels of black mold in May, the county ordered the building closed and suspended all court activities there until further notice.
Suddenly, people from Blocksburg to Shelter Cove and from Pepperwood to Piercy had to scramble to find a workaround. While Garberville itself is a small town, Garberville is "town" — as in, "I'm going to town" — for a huge geographic area with a growing population. The John Haynes Memorial Veterans Hall, despite its problems, served this larger SoHum community so faithfully, in so many capacities, for so long, and with such humility, that most took it for granted. We're still scrambling.
Angelina Jaquez still doesn't know what she'll do. She runs Unleashed K9 Training Inc., and has come to rely on the hall, where she taught canine socialization, agility and obedience. "For dogs to learn to behave, they need to be in a pack, so it's important to get everyone together in one place," she said.
She described the difficulty she has had finding another location. "We can't use the community park, because there are no fenced areas, and because too many people let their dogs run with no leash, no training, no manners, no nothing," she said. "We tried to find a place in the Meadows Business Park, but nothing worked out there. Nilsen's Redway Feed Store volunteered to let us use their parking lot, but there's just too much activity in that parking lot and, in the summer, the pavement is too hot for the dogs' paws. I'm currently holding classes in one of my students' yards, but that will only work as long as the weather holds out. I still don't know what I'm going to do when it starts to rain."
She explained that the outdoor setting doesn't work very well, as fewer people show up when it's hot out, which deprives the dogs of the consistency they need for a good training class. Ultimately, she needs an indoor space with air conditioning and floors that are easy to clean. (Carpeted rooms won't work, as dogs do have accidents on occasion.)
"I work a lot with rehab dogs, and dogs that are difficult to deal with, have bite records and other problems," Jaquez continued. "A lot of these dog owners are at their wits end. Without my class, some of these dogs will probably have to be put down."
Evelyn King, who teaches an exercise class for seniors in SoHum, said participation in the class has gone down considerably since it had to be moved out of the Garberville Vets Hall. She still teaches, but sometimes has no students show up for her class at the Healy Senior Center in Redway. "One nice thing about the Vets Hall," Evelyn said, "is that it is so close to the senior housing in Garberville. When we did the class there, the seniors could just walk over to the class, but to get (to Redway) they need a ride."
Other Vets Hall users face similar challenges. When asked, Vets Hall booking manager Amy McClellan rattled off a long list of groups that used the hall every week. There was Feet First Dancers, with classes and rehearsals for ballet, salsa, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern and more. Then there are theater groups, Aikido classes and senior exercise classes. The Family Resource Center in Redway used the hall for parenting classes, and the Garberville Town Square organization used its kitchen to prepare food for events. A host of nonprofits used it to house their annual dinners, fundraisers and celebrations. Then there's the litany of public meetings held there, not to mention the monthly veterans dinner.
"I've probably forgotten some things but this should get you started," McClellan said.
Southern Humboldt just doesn't have that many alternatives. The much smaller Garberville Civic Club can handle about 50 people with a shoehorn, but it's more out of the way. The struggling Garberville Theater, and the newly opened Redwood Playhouse in the old College of the Redwoods building will work for a performance, or to screen a movie, but you can't really serve Thanksgiving dinner for 250 people in either of them and they don't have a kitchen. It's a conundrum. Many fear the county may opt to demolish the Vets Hall and with it, Garberville's long holiday tradition.
According to Fennell, the current 2nd District supervisor, the county is looking at the situation and trying to decide if the building is worth saving. The 2002 agreement stipulates that it is the county's responsibility to fix the roof and rebuild the hall if it is destroyed. However, the agreement also states: "In a situation where the building is destroyed, we have included language that we will rebuild as soon as possible, and commit to beginning reconstruction within a year of destruction. This recognizes that county timelines have constraints."
Those constraints are the reason the roof didn't get fixed for 15 years. The vets have invested a lot of resources into this building, expecting the county would fulfill its obligation under the agreement. The county's apparent failure to live up to its promise has hurt the entire community, especially area veterans. The hall closure has disrupted their activities, and threatens their property. For everyone else, it's going to be a lot harder to find a place to meet, teach a class or have a wedding reception, and there doesn't appear to be an easy answer.
The vets favor fixing the roof and removing the mold, according to Torborg, and the sooner the better. He hopes the problem can be solved in relatively short order if it is handled quickly, before the mold has time to spread. Any other solution will likely leave Southern Humboldt without an affordable hall — and local vets without a place to meet — for the foreseeable future.
And there's more to this than simple inconvenience. Not only is the Vets Hall an important part of everyday life in SoHum, it also provides critical infrastructure in times of emergency. A provision in the 2002 agreement states that the hall will serve as a care center or "other emergency facility" during declared disasters or states of emergency. In fact, the Vets Hall has been used as a severe weather shelter on the coldest nights of winter for a long time.
For many years, community organizers worked closely with the veterans around homeless issues. Many vets were homeless at the time and Veterans for Peace activists within the Garberville veterans post made the building available to people caught outdoors during nights when the temperatures fell below freezing. This past winter, however, the veterans decided they no longer wanted the hall used as an emergency shelter, citing safety, security and insurance concerns.
Since then, community organizers Debra Carey and Paul Encimer have approached Fennell to establish an "extreme weather protocol" to determine emergency conditions under which the hall could be used as an emergency shelter. They say she's been extremely reluctant to exercise the county's authority under the agreement and there's currently no shelter for the people who need it in Southern Humboldt.
From one grieving mother's generosity, and the work of three generations of local veterans, came a modest, poorly designed building on Conger Street in Garberville, but the forces that shape this community, and the people who live here, have made the Garberville Vets Hall into the heart of Southern Humboldt life.
Meanwhile the forces at play in county government allowed the Garberville Vets Hall to fall into disrepair. Other Veterans Halls in the county need repairs too, but few serve such a vital role for such a large community. Considering the county's ongoing structural budget deficit, it doesn't seem likely that the county will make building a new veterans hall in Garberville a priority any time soon. Many wonder if the hall will ever reopen.
In the meantime, the Mateel Community Center has agreed to host the vets annual Thanksgiving dinner, ensuring Southern Humboldt's heart will continue to beat at least a bit longer, however faintly.
Community Help In Living Locally (CHILL) meets this Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Noon in Garberville. In the face of a “Shock & Awe” campaign over the last weeks aimed at dislodging local homeless, CHILL is rediscovering itself as an ad hoc grouping of Human Rights advocates. Gentrification is never pretty, ironically enough, and this recent coalition of counter-cultural money, old settler money and real estate money is no exception. Although the CHILL agenda is open to those who advocate for the “at risk,” Wednesday’s meeting will therefore have a focus on legal remedies in defense of human rights. The place of meeting is at 1007 2nd St. at the Free Library in back of the old Bike Coop.
Meanwhile of course CHILL continues to promote a positive agenda. The demographics of homelessness as envisioned by CHILL activists is made up of many independent constituencies that do not fit the hateful profile promulgated by the current gentrification coalition of the rich and would-be rich. CHILL instead proposes a series of institutional solutions.
The most conventional solution is a Farm Labor Camp for migrant workers in the marijuana business. Representatives of the state of California have indicated the eligibility of the Emerald region for a state funded migrant labor camp. A Sanctuary village for women and families is crucial, given the excessive vulnerability of women and children forced to live in camps, cars and on couches. CHILL also seeks to create a cooperative village on a land trust model for employed people and those with low/no income. A winter shelter is another priority for CHILL whose activists have for some years provided the volunteer staffing. Homeless veterans abound in America and CHILL hopes to be part of a movement to rebuild the Vets’ Hall at County expense. The County has shown itself to be unwilling to maintain the Hall and when completed the Hall should be wholly owned by local veterans, free of County interference..
CHILL is a grouping that is explicitly founded on opposition to violence, in particular as used against the “at risk” street population who have suffered many attacks on behalf of “localism”. CHILL wants to remove the baseball bat and the taser as symbols of this “localism.” On behalf of that effort CHILL periodically sponsors sessions in nonviolent communication and conduct.
The imminent loss of the bookstore at the north end of Garberville – thanks to dictates of the currently triumphant money power - will require the recreation of a “Respite Center” named in honor of Kathy Epling whose vision it was. The bookstore has been targeted as an unofficial “Respite Center” which is dedicated to helping the helpless, lessening the levels of fear among the desperate, offering resources to the resource-less. The totally free services provide (as available) food, clothing, water, electricity, telephone, mail services, along with orientation information for travelers and for trimmers and growers alike. Also made available are extensive materials serving “Harm Reduction” - and in cooperation with medical and mental health servers, CHILL is part of the demand for appropriate County services to aid people with addiction and mental health problems. Eureka is a parasite whose population, perhaps twice that of Southern Humboldt, soaks up just about all the County welfare money.
Property continues as the “sacred” watchword on behalf of dollar values which otherwise hold nothing sacred. Ownership is of such paramount importance that any “private property” anywhere in the region is under the exclusive guardianship of any self-appointed “local” disciple with the tacit or open encouragement of law enforcement . The sacred earth at Standing Rock has been re-asserted as a prime value held by Native Americans upon whose very land our local “owners” and their serfs arrogantly squat as they persecute trespassers. CHILL means to be a different kind of citizens’ movement.
For information on where exactly is 2nd st and etc contact Paul 923-4488 or Debra 223-3607
Ukiah, CA— Tribal members and forest activists confront Mendocino Redwood Company at mill site, completing their four day, 54-mile “March to Let the Forest Heal”The trek from Comptche to Ukiah called attention to Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC)’s ongoing practice of “Hack and Squirt”. The method uses the herbicide Imazapyr, injected into a wound, to kill millions of tan oaks and madrones, leaving a forest of standing dead trees. Roundup and Garlon are also used to kill brush, which is bulldozed into huge flammable “slash” piles throughout MRC’S 220,000 acre holdings in Mendocino County. Carrying a redwood log and dead tan oak branches to symbolize the destruction taking place in the forest, the marchers braved rain and traffic, including log trucks, along southern Mendocino County rural routes 128 and 253, eliciting “thumbs up” from drivers and picking up more marchers along the way. Led by an intrepid core including local grandmothers, the procession at times swelled to over twenty people walking together.
June 16, 2016
...."Lorraine Carolan, a retired midwife who helped start Redway's health center and has called Southern Humboldt home for more than 40 years, celebrated aher 70th birthday earlier this year. "People wanted to do a big party or something for me," Carolan recalled over the phone this week. "I thought, 'I don't really want to do that.'" ....
'It's the Time'
By Amjad Alfakuri
It's the time of year when my mother's jasmine would be in bloom, with its magnificent white flower and not uniformly popular sweet bouquet.
Like most of the hundreds of thousands of people in camps across Europe, I would describe myself foremost as a human who wants a safe and secure life for my family. I am an Arab. I am a Muslim. I'm a Syrian, but, first, I'm a 35-year-old man. I am a son. I am a brother. I'm a husband, a friend and, for the past three years, a father. My ethnicity, my color, my religion do not define me....
County line’s visible from miles away, thanks to growsBy Charley Custer
I live in the heart of the Southern Humboldt potlands. Things are happening all around me, in one of the oldest and most stable neighborhoods down here, of which our supervisors are unaware. Homesteads are rolling over rapidly. Forty-acre parcels with little water, no utilities and few amenities are selling for close to $1 million. The county doesn’t know about this wild price inflation, because purchase prices out of whack with historic values aren’t reported, to keep taxes on the property low.
Then the steep, unwatered parcels get terraced by excavators and bulldozers, to create artificial flats for industrial pot production. Truckloads, even convoys, of rock and gravel and super-soil thunder up and down many miles of dirt roads into the mountains. Where water will come from is anyone’s guess, though it’s certain to be from somewhere illegal — but no matter. After all, the grading’s illegal. The tax fraud’s illegal. The water shipping’s illegal. The pot sales will be illegal. But the county sees everything coming up roses, because everyone, now including the county and our supervisors’ re-election committees, everyone is making money. Our leadership seems to take pride in making the most of boom and bust, as if it’s something new.
The question the county’s chosen not to ask is, how much boom can we take before the bust? How much damage can these day-trippers do while buying and wrecking properties paid for with a single year’s profit? How many more of these despoilers do we want to flag into our hills and agricultural lands before the other shoe drops?
They’re piling into Humboldt thanks to our unique pot regulation, perfected over the last half-century, amounting to no regulation at all. New county rules allow for cannabis grows up to four times larger than state limits, while smaller grows are unlikely to face criminal penalties. So Humboldt’s invitation to short-term profits from long-term degradation has been embraced by fast-money seekers from near and far. Our sky-high grow limits have been broadcast to the world, quite simply, as no limits at all.
Consider what our neighboring counties are doing in contrast to Humboldt. In Trinity County, a famously wide-open weed frontier until lately, backlashes against over-the-top practices in town after town and race after race are actually driving growers out of the county — into Humboldt. In Mendocino County, after the federal shutdown of that county’s 99-plant experiment, strictly enforced limits of 25 plants per parcel have resulted in smaller footprints broadly distributed across more intact landscapes. Two men who work in rural Humboldt and Mendocino have told me our county line is visible from miles away across eastern Humboldt, thanks to the gigantic grows rooted there at the border, spreading north.
The argument is sometimes made that equating sheer size with destructiveness is simplistic. It’s said that industrial grows located miles from any services off dodgy roads up mountainsides can be “sustainable,” that they’re even better for the environment than old-school hippies’ homestead grows. Well, it’s true that we could build sustainable moon bases, too, but we don’t: It’s too expensive and resource-intensive. The same’s true for theoretically eco-groovy factories located absurdly far from the resources they use.
There’s a lawsuit against Humboldt’s new cannabis regulations, essentially charging that the county ignores its policies’ environmental effects. This lawsuit calls for the county to make mid-course corrections to a regulatory scheme that, with good intentions, has had the terrible effect of multiplying the worst behaviors of our worst cannabis industrialists. This wasn’t intended; it should be corrected.
Reducing permissible footprints, funding a sheriff’s task force, and proving with enforcement that lower limits are real ones will send a needed message to the world, while stopping the worst effects of short-term thinking with long-term consequences. Because all too soon, the backwoods factories currently incentivized will go bust like so many gyppo mills.
By far the easiest, most straightforward way to regulate away the worst effects of pot production is to limit and disperse it in rural areas, not to industrialize it. Those growing outlandishly big deserve all the trouble they’re asking for, whether their truckloads are organic or not. At the very beginning of our county’s regulatory regime, the challenge is to open communications between the rural county and the courthouse, to awaken belief in actual regulations on the horizon.
We can take this moment to learn from the unintended effects of our good intentions, and assure that we make fewer mistakes over time. But will we? Ask your supervisors.
Charley Custer resides in Redway, and is a longtime member of HuMMAP (Humboldt/Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Project) and HumCPR (Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights).
Emergency CHILL (Community Help In Living Locally) Meeting
The only open remnant of geographically available housing for the houseless, Hippy Hill, is going the way of Palco Marsh. Eviction of the current population will take place Thursday May 19th. Hippy Hill is under fresh management and is a prime example of how gentrification works - put poor people on a piece of land and getting them off it raises the dollar value, sometimes exponentially. The money system mandates this ongoing eviction. Our "Business is Big Salaries" Governments are not far behind in their unwillingness to meet the social challenge. It is up to us to continue to create a citizen action movement that works for community values and not profits or taxes.
Community Help In Living Locally (CHILL) will have an emergency meeting on Wednesday, May 18 at noon at the Earth School Library in back of the Bike Co-op at 1007 2nd St. (If you have trouble finding it call Paul at 923 448, 298 7702 or Debra at 223 3607). Hippy Hill has been a longtime sanctuary for a number of emblematic disabled people. Where they will go should be of concern to all.
As well, CHILL will be planning revisions of its basic literature as well as our orientation material for the influx of trimmigrants, many of whom are already arriving. We think we have some reasonable solutions to our coming over-crowding. But we need land. Yes land.
The poor will not evaporate into the ozone, whatever Eureka's Police Chief thinks. His activities have created a reckless billiard ball effect that threatens to destabilize the entire County. Not that this bothers our County Supervisor who spells compassion with dollar signs: get it - compa$$ion. No matter that Eureka is a parasite that receives its social welfare funding from the County. Eureka has maybe twice the population of SoHum - it gets everything and we get nothing.
Eureka is meanwhile becoming another Los Angeles, with a police force training to be an army of occupation. We need to stop that disintegration by opting out on behalf of mercy instead of terrorism.
Come join CHILL to link up to stop the madness and end the drift toward internment camps now taking place and re-establish the Occupy idea of self-governing, cooperative villages for people who have been evicted from the economy.
yours faithfully, Paul Encimer
City of Eureka Publishes New Post-Palco Marsh Stats.
Little bit of a weird press release from the city of Eureka, below. It starts by listing police actions taken to enforce illegal camping in the city limits since last week’s eviction of homeless folks from the Palco March, and it ends by going off on a strange digression complaining about requests for public records.
The city says it “is concerned” that people are carpet-bombing it with requests for homelessness policy-related documents under the California Public Records Act. Why is it concerned by this? Because, it says, people might take the documents obtained through public records act requests and slip them to the 11 people suing the city in federal court!
This is hokum — documents are public or not public, and the city is not permitted to ask someone why they want the documents before they make that determination. If the documents are public documents, then the Palco Marsh 11 are as welcome to them as anyone else is.
Later the city claims that some of the documents requested are not, in fact, public, as they fall under specific exemptions listed in the Public Records Act. Which is fine — then you’re saying they’re not public documents. So you’re not going to provide them, and unless a judge tells you that you’re wrong and they are public documents, you don’t have to provide them.
So why are you worried about the ACLU and/or members of the media slipping the results of their PRA requests to the Marsh 11? If they’re public, then the Marsh 11 — and everyone — should have them anyway. If they’re not public, then you don’t have to release them to the public. See how that works?
Apparently Thad Greenson of the North Coast Journal has requested a truckload of documents and internal correspondence relating to the Palco Marsh eviction and homelessness policy in the city generally, and apparently the city is not inclined to give it up. So they’re gearing up for a public records court fight against Thad — which, incidentally, is a kind of fight they have lost before.
So it seems that the city, here, is putting Thad on blast, saying that he’s costing the public tons of time and money by requesting an overly broad range of documentation, most bits of which presumably require legal review and probably redaction. But them’s the breaks, right?
Anyway, read this whole thing. It’s kind of bizarre. From the City of Eureka:The City of Eureka continues to make emergency shelter available for the 11 plaintiffs as ordered by Federal Judge Jeffrey White. Six of the eleven plaintiffs are currently living in the container shelter operated by Betty Chinn. The remaining plaintiffs have refused the City’s offer of shelter, found shelter elsewhere, or have not responded to offers. The City continues to work with plaintiffs’ counsel and comply with the Court order.
Concerns regarding increased illegal camping in other greenbelts in the City continue to be addressed. Eureka Police Department has issued 18 EMC citations and arrested one person for illegal camping in the City. EPD received 248 transient related calls for service since May 2nd. Many of these calls were officer initiated contacts during foot patrols or field interviews. The illegal camping citations have been issued near Washington/Koster, Bayshore Way, foot of W. Del Norte Street, 3400 block of W Street, 2400 block of 2nd Street and along Broadway. Residents are urged to report illegal camping on their property or on City property.
The City has also received several Public Records Act (PRA) requests seeking documents and Council and upper management communications regarding the broad catch-phrase “homeless” or “houseless” from the ACLU and the media. The City is evaluating each request but, is concerned that the entities involved are using the PRA to bypass the federal discovery rules which would apply in the federal lawsuit that is currently pending against the City. This process would allow these individuals and entities to provide whatever records are disclosed by the City directly to the 11 plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit thus, bypassing legal requirements. Further, many of the records sought are exempt from disclosure per several exemptions such as Pending Litigation and Deliberative Process Privilege. The Pending Litigation exemption provides that records relating to pending or anticipated litigation are exempt from disclosure. The Deliberative Process Privilege protects records which would expose the City’s decisionmaking process with regard to the May 2 move-out.
The City has received one threat of litigation from the North Coast Journal. Thaddeus Greenson [sic] of the North Coast Journal has requested City Council and upper management communications since February 1, 2015 from a broad category of records related to “homeless.” This request includes records related to the pending federal lawsuit and the City’s decision-making process with regard to the May 2 move-out. The City has and continues to expend a significant amount of time and resources to respond to these PRAs. The City is taking steps to respond to this threat of litigation and will vigorously defend any lawsuit that is filed.
May 2 Marsh Exile
By Shanna ‘Blu’ Carlile Roy
May 2, 2016 was a highly anticipated and high stakes day. A force of dozens of police, heavy equipment and city workers swept through the Palco Marsh. A handful of journalists, designated observers and social workers were allowed past the police guarded barricades. When I arrived I learned that our other Humboldt Edge reporter and Board member, Nezzie Wade had been kicked out by the police and her press credentials disregarded. Nezzie is an outspoken homeless advocate and the President of AHHA (Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives) and chair of the Humboldt Human Rights Commission. Another reporter from Greenfuse was turned away as well. I was lucky to make it into the scene. My heart sank when I did. It looked like a warzone. The Coast Guard helicopter circled the area repeatedly. Smoke billowed from fires reeking of trash. Weary and stunned residents, many with no safe place to live carried their belongings in trash bags, on bicycles and make shift carts trying to take as much as they could in one load. They would not be allowed to come back. The temporary emergency container housing being offered to 40 people, without children, filled up quickly and was not enough to accommodate over 130 remaining residents of the marsh. The parking lot at the Department of Health and Human Services allows overnight camping from 8pm-7am but is not available during the day. Thirty overflow shelter beds for men were added at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall on an emergency basis, without accommodation for couples or dogs. All of these options expire in 60 days when the 6-month emergency shelter declaration ends.
By 9AM all but a handful of houseless had been kicked out. They poured onto the streets with carts and bags, dogs trailing behind. They were burdened and broke, looking lost and violated. Their homes had been taken by force. Their belongings bulldozed into piles and scooped into dumpsters. For many residents of the marsh it had become the closest thing to a stable home and family that they had ever known. “We’re family. We pull together and help each other out. Everybody’s gone. Where are we going to go now? What are we going to do now? We’re one out here.” Mama D was one of the last residents to leave. She was one of the eleven plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the city. The judge ruled in favor of a restraining order against the police but did not include the rest of the marsh residents. She was trying to make her breakfast in the chaos. As we spoke city workers came and collected more of her things to take to the Betty Chinn container compound. Mama D told me that the plaintiffs were given priority in placement. “I’m severely depressed. I feel like I’m in prison or jail. I’m not used to being in closed in areas now. I’ve been out here three years but I’ve been on the streets for ten years. Every time I turn around I feel more lost, being uprooted again.” Mama D has suffered abuse her entire life. “Being stripped of my home and my children was the hardest thing. I just got over that. Now I’m being stripped of here, where I feel safe.” Stacy, another resident and plaintiff with anxiety and mental illness paced anxiously clearly distressed by the situation. She was offered a place at the container village but did not want to go. Brandi Wilson, a member of Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction tried to help and calm her.
Down the trail I met a young woman named Tricia. She struggled to load her things onto a dilapidated bicycle cart. There was three times as much stuff as the cart could carry and two dogs as well. The dogs had been licensed and vaccinated. Tricia was pregnant. Her fiancé had an asthma attack and left the marsh to find water. The police would not allow him back in to help her. She had no idea where they were going to go. Later I ran into some people from the St. Joseph’s outreach clinic and pointed them to Tricia. They helped her transport her things out of the area.
When I went back down the trail I learned that the police forced Brandi out of the area. Stacy’s anxiety was growing. The police told Stacy that the residents would have until 5pm to remove their belongings and leave. She had to shout to be heard over the noise of the helicopter, heavy equipment and cars. “The only place they’ve offered is the mission, which is Christian based. I’m pagan. I’m not going to go there. Or rehab. I don’t need rehab. I’m 43 years old. I don’t need to be told to go to bed at ten, get up at seven and do your chores. I don’t need that. I’m mentally fucking ill and I need my support system and they just made my fucking support system leave.” She called her lawyer’s office in desperation. I tried to hang around to make sure she would be all right. I felt some relief when she went and joined Mama D and a few others at their camp. The feeling of helplessness, desperation and sadness was heartbreaking.
Another pregnant woman stood by her makeshift cabin while the police took inventory of her things and she went through the rest to take with her. “Everybody’s got to be somewhere. I’ve been homeless off and on for 15 years. Right now I’m staying at the motel right up the road but I’m working on trying to get either a place or permanent housing, so I’m in the works. I’m not planning on trying to be outside anymore but I’m not guaranteeing that it’s not going to happen because it’s really hard to keep permanent housing.”
At a press conference held in the overflow parking lot of the Bayshore Mall the police department said, “Camping in an area without water, sewer, electricity, is just not a good option. The City of Eureka along with the Department of Health and Human Services has housed over 100 people. I think that’s an incredible number for a city this size.”
The houseless population in Humboldt County is estimated to be about 1,500. Many of the people that I spoke with that lived in the marsh had been directed to go there by the police during ‘Operation Cleansweep’. This was an effort last year to clear all of the homeless camps from other areas of the city. Many were told that the only place that they would be allowed to camp in Eureka was in the marsh. No services or utilities were provided except occasionally a portable toilet or dumpster. Mayor Jager previously said that he did not want the homeless to be disbursed throughout the city but with the Palco Marsh exodus that is exactly what happened.
Later that day we saw Mama D pulling a wagon while carrying a load of her things. She was sweaty and winded with another half-mile walk to the container camp. We stopped and helped her haul her things in our car. If not for that temporary housing she would not know where to go. As for the rest of the homeless, it is illegal to sleep in Eureka. The police can confiscate their belongings if it is placed on the ground. The current lack of permanent housing or a sanctuary camp has left the houseless wandering the streets being harassed and arrested for doing nothing more than trying to survive.
- As about 100 house-less individuals were evicted, several homeless advocates were watching the operation unfold from the sidelines. The Eureka Police Department did not allow them to enter the marsh.
The advocates said they were worried about the future for those who were living in the marsh.
Debra Carey, a homeless advocate, said she did not believe kicking people out of the marsh was a viable solution.
“Today is a tragedy,” she said. “When you send a lot of people out of the street and you're only looking at temporary solutions and not looking at real solutions.”
Carey felt the residents had been able to develop of sense of community at the marsh and the operation was destroying it.
“We've just scattered a community,” she said. “People that support each other and the services that support them are now not going to be able to find them.”
Nezzie Wade, another homeless advocate said, she was concerned about where many of the house-less were going to go and was afraid they could become targets if they were wandering around the city.
“Anything that happens, anything at all that happens, they're going to be blamed for it, regardless of whether they had anything to do with it or not,” Wade said.
Advocates weren’t the only ones showing support for the marsh residents. A traveling group of volunteers, The Vagabus, drove from Garberville to Eureka to stand in solidarity with the house-less. Its members said they sympathized with the residents as many of them had been in their shoes at one point in their lives.
“Most of the people on this bus, we were all homeless,” Steven Boutwell, a member of the Vagabus, said. “I think there are 11 members, 9 of us were homeless, and so we've been in these people's shoes.”
The eviction operation will continue on Tuesday.