The Menu: Chicken in sauce or pork ribs, scalloped potatoes, garlic bread, and salad bar. Police Chief Andy Mills led us in the pledge. Carlton Nielsen gave the invocation. President Gregg Gardiner recognized Neil Carnam, who had just returned from Nepal. He was at the Mt. Everest base camp four days before the earthquake. He said the trip was a lifelong dream and he felt very lucky to have survived it. He will give a brief travelogue next week before our program (Cal Fresh).
Our Prez recognized Ziggy Ziggenfuss for a recent TV ad of him running the St. Joseph Hospital shuttle program. Dave Wells finally got his Blue Badge. Then we had the drawing. Greg Bowen won the bottle of wine and Jay Bahner, given a 1 out of 13 chance to win $740, drew the ten of hearts.
Our program on the homeless problem included 8 different presenters so we got right to it. Supervisor Virginia Bass introduced the subject. She said it’s important to distinguish between the homeless problem and the panhandling problem. Many panhandlers have homes. Some young families working low paying jobs are homeless. The current estimate is that there are 600 homeless, half local and half transients. 50-60% have mental issues and 70-80% abuse drugs or alcohol. She’s a member of CHIP, Creative Homeless Improvement Program. The group meets every Thursday and includes business owners service providers and the Police Chief.
The Police Chief then took his turn. He’s for a compassionate solution, but is pressing to find a location for a more structured and hygienic homeless camp. They hauled off 100 tons of trash and 800 shopping carts from “The Devil’s Playground”. They made over 5000 arrests and relocated 1800 people to other cities. Their mobile intervention services team swept the camp and found 16 guns. They have been passing out flyers telling people not to give cash to the panhandlers.
Phillip Crandall, Director of the Humboldt County Health and Human Services Department, spoke next. They are planning to expand the MAC building over by Target adding 60 beds. The homeless need housing, it turns out. He passed out a sheet that debunked some of the myths about General Relief. In spite of the general feeling that the number of homeless is increasing, the GR caseload is 183, down from 227 in 2014. GR vouchers cannot be used for drugs cigarettes and alcohol. DHHS doesn’t provide any funding though any of its programs to support people’s dogs or other pets. The average payment in California is $296 a month. Humboldt County pays $303.
Betty Chin was next. She operates the Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless foundation. She feeds 450-500 people a day. She’s found housing for 129 single men. She has provided housing, transportation to schools, and other services She said we don’t see some of the neediest homeless because they hide in the bushes and never come out.
Other speakers included Pamela Milsap EPD homeless liaison officer who noted that there are no drug or alcohol treatment programs for persons under 18. Fox Olsen Arcata Homeless Advocate wanted a transitional housing program. She had an on the job training plan that would pay half the salary of an employee.
Nezzie Wade represented Affordable Homeless housing Alternatives. She co-managed micro housing.
Finally Bryan Lee Hall of the Eureka Rescue Mission asked us what we thought when we saw a turtle on a fencepost. “Someone put it there”. The homeless need to change the way they think to become contributing members of the community and someone needs to give them hope and training. Someone has to put them on that fencepost. And how do you get off the fencepost? Stay tuned.
Hank Ingham Burl Writer