Operation Helping Hands

Putting compassion at the forefront of community efforts

Over the past months EPD along with multiple city departments have worked with community partners to solve homeless problems behind the mall. We recognize it is the highest priority for the Eureka community and have expended a great deal of time and resources.

EPD wrestles with the question of how we compassionately help those in need and yet enforce the laws of this city. When one views our efforts under the illumination of recent court decisions concerning the 8th amendment, our conduct becomes vitally important. The courts are consistent with ensuring people are not discriminated against based on economic status. Homeless enforcement without adequate housing is problematic. http://www.aele.org/law/2008LRAUG/2008-8MLJ101.pdf

So striking a balance between compassion and enforcement is essential. EPD has done a lot of analysis on police efforts concerning homelessness, from what others have done and are doing to abate homeless problems, to the best evidence based practices nationally. We have examined efforts elsewhere, both successful and those still trying. EPD is committed to finding solutions that do not criminalize poverty, yet ensures that violence, theft and property damage will be met with enforcement. http://www.popcenter.org/search/?cx=016817335679885975849%3Agiidughzfro&q=homeless&x=11&y=13

Here are some things we have learned in our analysis of the problem:

• Most homeless want to be housed…although often times on their terms.
• Many, as much as 50%, have at least one dog. This becomes part of the problem.
• The majority describe themselves as being a frequent victim of crime. They are vulnerable, as much as 50 times more victimized than the average housed citizen.
• Most are sleep deprived which may exacerbate mental health and addiction problems.
• The homeless want safety. Their ideas of safety frequently differ from ours. Isolation is strategic to their selection of campsite. This prevents theft of their meager personal items and limits access by the police.
• The homeless need access to services and view Eureka central to this effort.

So the community and police team will move forward with the goal of rapid rehousing, when possible including animals. This will provide safety and help with sleep deprivation. That has demonstrated to help stabilize at least some homeless persons. One local man went from 3 radio calls a day and multiple hospital visits to 3 calls in six months. I call that success. Now we expand these opportunities. We also are working to find a suitable location to cluster homeless together for social control through peer pressure. It also helps us bring services to one location. The homeless must be part of the solution by holding one another accountable for their actions.

The good news: Compassion was in full display today at Operation Helping Hands. Social service members from over a dozen organizations were there to provide services aimed at informing and getting people placed into housing. More than 40 people came for resources. One provider told me 24 people signed up for help. I call that a success!

It’s a start! Let’s not get weary in doing good, but rather press on to help those who need.
Here is a partial list of those giving of themselves to help. You can do your part by helping them help others.

Betty Chinn Center; Street Outreach Services; Youth Services Bureau; Alcohol and Drug Care Services; North Coast Veterans Service; Open Door Clinic/ Mobile Medical; Teen Challenge; St Joseph Community Resource Center; Legal Services of Northern California; Humboldt County Office of Education; AHHA; Crossroads; Rape Crisis Center

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