The year 2005 was a heady time for homelessness. Arcata’s Homeless Services Plan Task Force (HSPTF) was meeting every two weeks, and, as is the case with so many issues (fluoridation, the War in Iraq, civilian police review), Arcata became The Place where everything was going to be solved – or so you might have thought by the intensity of the debate.
The HSPTF included representation from social service providers, educators, homeless persons, businesspeople and other community leaders, and was chartered to shape Arcata’s response to the burgeoning homelessness problem. But it wasn’t long before politics sidetracked the process. Emboldened by support from two members of the City Council, homeless advocates demanded establishment of a nomadic campground, or “Dignity Village” – a place where travelers could find refuge, food, living space and services with few or no strings attached. Predictably, this provoked consternation in the community, and skeptics weren’t shy about pointing out potential problems with such a facility having to do with cost, crime, environmental impact and possibly attracting more needy individuals.
All sides galvanized their positions, the rhetoric from Task Force members and the public became superheated and the HSPTF became so paralyzed by politics that its final product, a mammoth Homeless Services Plan with equally voluminous addendum, was all but useless as a serious planning document. The City of Arcata then revised the document at considerable expense, and in March adopted a more pragmatic Homeless Service Plan.
The plan attempts to ameliorate homelessness by drawing homeless persons into the “continuum of care” with a combination of emergency, transitional and long-term assistance, including various forms of housing. So, though it’s out of the headlines, the homeless issue has not gone away, nor have efforts to address it. In Arcata, the Arcata Endeavor, Arcata House and the Arcata Night Shelter continue to provide short- to medium-term services to those in need while a more comprehensive, region-wide program is developed at the county level.
On the Sept. 20 Humboldt Review, we’ll get an update on the fortunes of Arcata’s homeless service programs from:
Fox Olson – Executive Director, Arcata House
John Shelter – Director, Arcata Endeavor
Barbara LaHaie – Interim Assistant Director of Programs, Humboldt County Health and
Human Services Department
Rob Amerman – Housing Coordinator, Humboldt County Health and
Human Services Department
Murl Harpham – Captain, Eureka Police Department (Tape)
Prior to the homelessness discussion, in Segment 1, we’ll talk about Assembly Bill 43, which would legalize same-sex marriage in California with Justin Pabalate, Co-chair, Humboldt Pride.
We’ll round out the show with an update on kidney transplantee Jessiah Class with his mother, Kim Class.
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