The annual Point in Time (PIT) count is out. In Eureka, there was a 60% drop in those reporting unsheltered homelessness to the surveyors. (206 in 2017 vs. 513 in 2015) The methods used to conduct the survey are virtually the same every year: the results are as accurate as possible. Let’s remember the state of affairs last year: as many as 240 people living in the PALCO marsh area, hundreds of shopping carts strewn about, and panhandlers throughout Eureka. We may all be very proud of what has been accomplished so far!
There has been some displacement from PALCO marsh to other parts of the City. The City is working with the homeless as well as community members to study this issue: we are not seeing wholesale, but rather fractured, displacement; although not nearly the amount we expected. The area at 3rd and Commercial is particularly problematic right now, but not all of the people on 3rd are from PALCO marsh. Many are new faces to our town, sent here by other communities or having wandered here to trim.
Over the past year more than 300 people have been housed; some for short periods, others for much longer. Many have found permanent housing and jobs as they regained their health. The collaboration between the City, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the private sector has been a powerful force for good; in particular Betty’s Blue Angel Village, a well-managed center of compassion that demonstrates what the private sector, the non-profit community, and government can do when their forces are joined to support those in need. Betty and HumCPR deserve a great deal of credit.
But there is still much to do. The solution will need all of us. There are still at least 200 homeless individuals in Eureka, according to the PIT: 206 people with no shelter, no privacy, and no security of their personal property. As a compassionate community and with the help, input and involvement of the homeless themselves, we can, and must, remedy this situation. There are some who call for rigorous enforcement: “Put them in jail.” But there is no room. Even if there were, is this the right solution for the homeless? For you? Our enforcement and sentencing should be consistent throughout all strata of society. If it is illegal for one person to sit on a sidewalk, panhandle, or store personal property in public space, then it must be illegal for all. And let’s be clear: it is not illegal to be poor or appear unkempt. Their appearance may offend your senses, but they have every bit as much right to this beautiful place as you and I. Each of us, EPD included, must vigorously and compassionately defend their human rights as we encourage them to help the community improve their situation. Attached is a two part strategy the City is vetting to reduce behavioral problems associated with individuals at 3rd and Commercial. I welcome your feedback at email@example.com .
Part one of the strategy: a homeless day use area. The City is seeking proposals from individuals who need funding to help the homeless. There are 40-60 individuals who need a place to idle for the day with their belongings and possibly animals. It must be easily accessible to the city by foot or bus, but does not have to be in the city. Please check the transparency portal for ideas of what is needed to present as a proposal. You can submit your proposal, including budget, to the Chief of Police. A group of City staff and community members will evaluate the proposals.
Part two of the strategy: to deter crime and violent behavior through leveraged deterrence. With the cooperation of local businesses, the Saint Vincent De Paul Center (SVDP), and the individuals who frequent the area, we can use the services rendered to encourage behavioral control. If an individual is out of control, disturbing and perhaps threatening others, the community must say “That’s enough!”, and ask SVDP to withhold services until they can be restored. To restore services, the individual may be required to perform a community service: clean up trash, pull weeds, paint out graffiti, etc. Once completed, they can get a voucher to re-establish services.
Together we can solve this problem and bring order. Please see the attached documents.