Arcata City Homeless Task Force Blatantly Ignores Needs of Northern Humboldt’s Disadvantaged Youth and Families
This letter is past due. Originally, I was excited at the opportunity of sitting on a committee designated to find solutions that I thought would not only find multiple solutions to aide homeless/houseless in the community but also empower them. My job as the Homeless Outreach Coordinator for the High School District requires knowledge, an open heart, and trench boots. Unlike many of the homeless you see at the Endeavor or on the Plaza, the population I work with are invisible. Eighty one families were enrolled in the Northern Humboldt Homeless Outreach Project in the 2004-2005 school calendar year. Thirty nine of these students (48%) are Arcata residents. Many of these students “couch surf”: The practice of sleeping in the homes of acquaintances or other helpful people on a rotating basis, from home to home. Couch surfing, along with other forms of temporary housing arouses feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, uncertainty, and often is accompanied by hunger. Fortunately, most of these kids still make it to school and yet have hope.
Interestingly enough, many people assume welfare assistance is enough to get by on. Unfortunately, the assistance level is far below poverty level. One of the parents I work with receives $600.00 a month in assistance and $240.00 in food stamps for her and her two boys. Try to make rent on that budget!
A January 2003 rental survey conducted by Pacific Municipal Consultants found that the median rental price for a two bedroom apartment was $575.00 and a two bedroom house was $650.00. This is beyond the affordability of the families I work with and leads many families to double up in occupancy. It is not uncommon when interviewing families to hear that they sleep in the kitchen and on the living room floor just to have a roof over their heads, and these are families that are paying rent! Humboldt Bay Housing Company, ArcataÃ’s solution to aide low-income families with rentals, asks that monthly income be at least twice the amount of the rent. On average their rental price for a family of three is set by *Housing Urban Development(HUD) to be between $477.00-$678.00. After assisting ten families over the year to apply for this program, not even one qualified. Even with minimum wage jobs, $6.75hr x 40 hours x 4 weeks(month) Ã–25%(taxes/medical insurance/retirement) =$810.00.
Single parents are not making enough money to even qualify for an apartment rental. Even with HUD and *Section Eight as a solution, chances are slim that you can even get on the waiting list. Just yesterday, I spoke with a mother enrolled in my program who has been on the waiting list for housing in Humboldt County for three years. Even if families are granted governmental-housing assistance, itÃ’s unlikely to find a landlord who accepts it.
Where are these families supposed to go? This is a weekly struggle for me. With no solution, many families live in parked cars or trailers that they have to move every two weeks to a different camp ground because the majority of campgrounds in the area have a two week limit.
Ã“This year will be the first year without emergency shelter. Last year the winter shelter in Eureka housed over 90 families, in a three month period. Because of county policies, we will see more families outside in the colin ofdassistancestance. With our overloaded Mission providing the only emergency services, it will not be able to care for many of ArcataÃ’s populationÃ” -John Shelter, Operations Manager at Arcata Endeavor.
Some of my teens will camp in the community forests. I canÃ’t say I myself would be that brave as a teenager. It seems quite a few of my teens have been desperate for shelter. I have spoke to young girls who have had sex just to ensure a place to stay. It brings tears to my eyes to sit on a Task Force who chooses to look the other way rather then recognize the situation at hand. I was told at our last Task force meeting that the reason why the draft of the Homeless Task Force is not pushing a teen shelter is that Ã“it is too expensive to operateÃ” Shelly Mitchell (HSU consulting team member). I realize a teen shelter similar to the limited one through RCAA in Eureka may be costly, needing 24hr staffing, however there are feasible solutions to the money crunch. Community churches could be asked for funding as well volunteer time for staffing. Where there is a will from the community, there is way! Consider the alternative.
Inadequate shelter is a HUGE educational barrier for many of the teens enrolled in my program. When youth do not have shelter it is hard for them to learn. They worry about where they will sleep that night, they are tired from the night before, and feel heightened stress. All of these factors leave little energy for education. Arcata needs long term and emergency shelter to provide services for high school aged youth.
It is extremely frustrating to sit on a non compassionate Homeless Task Force after working on the front lines with families who are experiencing houselessness. My families seek legal places to camp for free or at the least a legassleep in to sleepin their vehicles with out harassment and yet the majority of the Task Force refuses to even research possible locations for camp grounds and safe zones.
It would also be proactive to have satellite workers from both Social Services and Mental Health provided at locations where these populations could conveniently receive services such as the Arcata Endeavor or at the school sites. This would alleviate transportation hardships and missed appointments. Not to mention opening doors for services to families who cannot make the distance to Eureka to receive counseling and all other services for their family. Try being a mother of three trying to make a Social Services appoin00 amt at 9:00AM with three children on a limited bus schedule and then deciding that bus tickets had to override your purchase for a gallon of milk and cereal for breakfast that morning for your kids.
Even after these issues have been brought to the attention of Task Force by way of public forums, letters, public comment, and interviews, it refuses to Ã“move in that direction, as it’s not very feasibleÃ” Ã–Davis from the (Homeless Task Force Loses Paul Billups as a Member, issue no. 27). The reality of it is that the only Ã“homeless populationÃ” that people want to be concerned with, are those on the plaza that are allegedly effecting the business community. The reality is many of the people on the plaza are not Ã“homelessÃ” yet there are many homeless that need help that arenÃ’t on the plaza.
It has also been requested several times for the site selection Committee to look at numerous sites not just for the movement for the Arcata Service Center but for other sites as well such as apartment buildings for a teen shelter, temporary housing for women and children, and community gardens. However, the site subcommzoning locations of zoninglocations has been replaced by a rÃÂ©gime to relocate the Arcata Endeavor while all other sites that be solutions to the problem at hand fall to the wayside.
There can be supportive solutions for finical and staffing assistance besides major state *CDBG grants and HUD monies. The Task Force does not have to limit itself to one major funding source, ealternative all other alterative solutions to a minority report. Arcata has a reputation for creative solutions, so why hasnÃ’t this been addressed in the draft of the plan? If the community can agree on a few solutions as a whole, surely we can band together collaborating agencies such as the High Schools, the University, encouraging churches and the All Faith Partnership creating sustainable solutions to many of tasks at hand requiring little federal or state funding.
Humanity has been ignored. I strongly encourage people to come to our Task Force and City Council meetings and speak up. With out your voices this plan could leave out major portions of the houseless population, namely northern Humboldt disadvantaged youth and families. Your voices your letters, your petitions, your participation and support are needed! Great issues are being ignored and need your support such as:
Shelters for teenage youth
Emergency shelters for families
Satellite workers from Mental Health and Social Services located at school sites or at the Arcata Endeavor
Safe Zones community gardens and campgrounds for families
Alternative sustainable solutions with community support and funding, and staffing
Rent control and more low income housing
Public restrooms with 24hr use
As the Arcata City Homeless Task Force, legally and ethically it was our charge to assist the houseless/homeless, improving the services and conditions by way of filling in the barriers they face and find solutions to improve the quality of life. I feel that we have moved away from this goal and have forgotten the task at hand. Huge populations of homeless have been ignored, victimized, and targeted as unworthy of compassion. I can only have faith that my time and energy committed to this task force has not been in vain.
Rosemary Loftis, MA Homeless Outreach Project Coordinator
*HUD:US Department of Housing and Urban developmenthe governmenthousing: thegovernment provides funds directly to apartment owners, who lower the rents they charge low-income tenants.
*Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly called “Section 8”) place to find your own placeto rent, using the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent
To be eligible, you need to fall with in a certain income rage.
*CDBG Grants Program Objective: The primary statutory objective of the CDBG program is to develop viable communities by providing decent hliving environmentable livingenvironment and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for persons of low-and moderate-income. The State must ensure that at least 70 percent of its CDBG grant funds are used for activities that benefit lowpersons overate-income personsover a one-, two-, or three-year time period selecgeneral objective This generalobjective is achieved by granting “maximum feasible priority” to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income families or aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight. Under unique circumstances, States may also use their funds to meet urgent community development needs. A need is considered urgent if it posses a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community and has arisen in the past 18 months.
Yours Truly, Rosemary