Ricky Smith, who has been homeless the past two years, plays guitar on the streets of Arcata. Photo by: T.William Wallin

Extreme Weather Shelters

Where the homeless go during extreme weather alerts

On a below-freezing December night, Ricky Smith found himself outside in Arcata’s cold weather with nowhere to go. His only option was to find warmth in Arcata House Partnership, or AHP’s emergency weather shelter. Smith has a Yosemite Sam mustache layered atop a scruffy beard and can be spotted around town with a guitar strapped around his shoulder. He is 60 years old and has been homeless the last two years.

“I was a local contractor and my house was foreclosed,” Smith said. “I lived in the same house for 25 years in McKinleyville but I took out one of those crazy loans.”

Smith said he usually doesn’t use the emergency shelter, but that particular night was unbearable and he couldn’t see himself surviving the frost. Although the volunteers were friendly Smith said he would take his chances on the street next time. It isn’t uncommon for homeless people to choose the street rather than a shelter.

David Pirtle, member of the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau, National Coalition for the Homeless, told NPR reporter Ari Shapiro, “My fear of the unknown, of what might be waiting for me at that shelter, was worse than my fear of the known risk, you know, of staying out on the street.” Pirtle said that the negative actions talked about of certain shelters can outweigh the shelters that are safe.

“The weather was below freezing when I used the emergency shelter but I prefer to sleep outside no matter how cold it is,” Smith said. “It isn’t worth the hassle to get loaned bedding.”

Smith isn’t alone in his experience. According to AHP there are 1300 homeless people in Humboldt County, or roughly 1 percent of the population. Darlene Spoor is the executive director for AHP and said the emergency weather shelter is 100 percent volunteer ran and relies solely on donations from the community.

“We can only do this with the generosity of our community,” Spoor said. “We do partner with the county, they are a great help with us and with people with mental health concerns.”

Spoor said the emergency weather shelter is contingent on the National Weather Service’s extreme weather warning, which is around 34-33 degrees and below. Spoor said they can sleep up to 18 people including families. She works with local churches in Arcata that act as temporary housing for the homeless during nights with emergency weather warnings. When she is alerted by email they open their call building, the Annex, and offer dry clothes and food. After intake they can shower and receive bedding.

“They get dinner and then we transport them to where they will sleep,” Spoor said. “We have staff that stays at the location the entire time then in the morning we bus them back so they can get breakfast and go on their way.”

Spoor said although their regular shelter is full this year they haven’t filled up their emergency weather shelter, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for the beds. They are in need of more sleeping bags, mats and large pans of food that can be frozen and feed 20. She said the main challenge is getting the information out into the community when the emergency weather shelter is open because it’s unpredictable.

“What people can do is check our Facebook page, we post signs, we tell the hospital, 211 and the police,” Spoor said. “One of the misconceptions is people have to be clean and sober, which isn’t true, they just have to have a good behavior”

The largest homeless population resides in Eureka where the Eureka Rescue Mission can house 46 women and children and around 73 men safely. Brian Hall Sr. is the executive director for the Eureka Rescue Mission and said during the winter season they act as if everyday is an extreme weather alert. Because the men’s shelter is under renovation they are sleeping in the small cafeteria, the size of half a basketball court. Hall said this doesn’t affect the amount of space they hold for those who need shelter and haven’t yet had to turn anyone away.

“During the winter season we lower the bar at this time,” Hall said. “If we smell a little bit of booze we let it slide, but if their sloshy drunk we can’t take them in.”

The Eureka Rescue Mission serviced over 100 people a night last. Hall said 160 or so was their maximum and if they’re completely full they call St. Vincent on 3rd St. in Eureka which can house 20 cots. Hall said this year is low in comparison but that could easily change. When the weather is rainy their outside area is covered with tarps and they can run a heater to accommodate an additional 15-20 men.

“There has been an increase of men going from homeless to having an apartment,” Hall said. “According to some there is a need for more homeless shelters, my take is there more need in our community for places for people to go who are active in their addiction, or who have dogs. We don’t allow dogs and if I was homeless i would have a dog.”

For more information on the emergency weather shelter you can contact Arcata House Partnership at (707) 633 6236 or the Eureka Rescue Mission at (707) 445-3787.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination

Major League Marijuana

Why I don’t think marijuana is everything it’s cracked up to be in baseball

Pigs Compost on Campus

CCAT tries to reduce HSU’s food waste footprint through new pig program