Jim Kelly, Crystal Fisher and David Love talk with each other at their makeshift camp outside the Arcata Community Center during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 6. | Photo by Thomas Lal

Housing the Homeless in Humboldt

California houses, shelters and aids homeless as COVID-19 cases continue to rise
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California houses, shelters and aids homeless as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

With at least 151,278 homeless individuals in California, measures to keep them safe and healthy during the current shelter-in-place order are crucial.

Governor Gavin Newsom and his administration have sought ways to provide shelter and temporary homes for the homeless. On March 18, Newsom published a statement addressing what actions are to take place to ensure that everyone in the state maintains their health.

“People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19,” Governor Newsom said. “California is deploying massive resources to get these vulnerable residents safely into shelter, removing regulatory barriers and securing trailers and hotels to provide immediate housing options for those most at risk. Helping these residents is critical to protecting public health, flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

To help with the crisis, Newsom released $150 million to local governments to pursue leases with hotels and motels for temporary shelter. An additional $650 million is said to be released on April 1 from last year’s budget, to ensure that enough supplies are given to shelters and other medical resources. Shelters all over the state are struggling to gain more medical supplies and are losing volunteers.

Around 130 homeless individuals are staying in shelters around Arcata and Eureka.

“This is one of the biggest challenges our homeless system has ever seen,” Deputy Secretary for Homelessness for the Newsom administration Ali Sutton said. “And our population is one of the most at risk.”

Newsom also said he and his administration are working on creating leases lasting a few months with hotels and motels in order to house more homeless. According to an article from The Latest, Newsom announced 2,400 more hotel and motel rooms have been secured to house those on the streets, with 1,900 of those rooms coming from San Diego alone. There are now 4,000 rooms secured statewide. San Diego plans to continue sheltering the homeless by moving them to the city’s Golden Hall, the downtown Convention Center (home to Comic-Con), and other vacant rooms in hotels.

Humboldt County is also working to gain more shelters, rooms and supplies for those on the streets. Around 130 homeless individuals are staying in shelters around Arcata and Eureka. Some shelters have already taken place like Eureka Rescue Mission and Arcata House Partnership.

Each shelter in Humboldt County is expected to receive $300,000 in order to keep up with medical resources and other supplies, but shelters might still need more help to make sure they have everything they need. Eureka Rescue Mission, for example, had to close their thrift store, which was a main source of income, making sheltering the homeless more difficult as the pandemic continues.

The city of Arcata, along with AHP, have been working together to find other ways to help. After calling and surveying businesses and other organizations, Arcata was able to secure two parking lots in town. The lot on G Street can maintain at least 19 people, while the Transit Center lot can hold up to 15 people. Tents inside the lot are recommended to be six feet apart. AHP is working with Affordable Housing Homeless to ensure portable showers, sinks and bathrooms are provided for the lots. The lots can also expect to soon see mobile health services to make sure individuals are healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set out guidelines for how to manage tent camps, recommending that local law enforcement should not force individuals out of the camps unless there is immediate housing available for them to go to.

Hotel and motel rooms, meanwhile, are still in the process of being secured for more individuals. Arcata is also giving out food at the Arcata Food Pantry on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m at the Trinity Baptist Church.

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