Recently, during record-hot weather in Southern Humboldt, the County Sheriff”s Department openly declared and began an aggressive attack , an “operation”, criminalizing and displacing ‘houseless’ people who live outside in Redway and Garberville. People sleeping on private land, with permission from the owner, were arrested for trespass. People sleeping on public land, while no shelter exists in Southern Humboldt, were also arrested for trespass! The Sheriff’s stopped people profiled as “homeless” who were walking in town, and questioned them, intimidated them, told them they if they returned to their sleeping places, they would be arrested. They also told these same people (in 100 degree weather) that they had 3 options: jail, the mental hospital, or leaving town. And the deputies confiscated their survival, medical, and personal gear.
In Northern Humboldt, a slightly more urban setting, there are no legal places for a person to sleep without paying money. Continuous harassment by police and city municipal codes attempt to prohibit particular people (wearing a backpack, looking houseless) from resting on public lands, from sitting in public places, and from having pets. The only “shelters” that exist are unavailable to most houseless people, and recently, a well-organized camp in Redwood Park was raided. Every night and day, people without shelter are criminalized for carrying out necessary life-sustaining conduct. Regularly the police confiscate, destroy, or hold onto peoples’ survival gear, their humble and only possessions.
There is not enough housing or services for every homeless person in Humboldt, yet officials take the meanest approach possible, forcing people out into town and ordering them to keep moving or go to jail!
We can expect more veterans of war and victims of the mortgage crisis to be a rapidly increasing part of the houseless population.
Last year, local group PEOPLE PROJECT, through an organized encampment protest on “public” land, exposed for many, the current conditions and policies inflicted against people without conventional shelter. The City of Arcata and Arcata Police, in conjunction with the Sheriff’sDept., the District Attorney’s Office, and 5 other police agencies, led an unnecessary raid on the encampment protest after a long night of heavy rain. The encampment was providing otherwise safe rest for 55 people of all ages.
There is not enough low-income housing in any town of Humboldt County (or in any community). There is little to no shelter space, and no campground exists where people can safely sleep without harassment from police. And the policies of cruelty, which attempt to disappear many people in our communities, perpetuate civilian violence against such vulnerable people who, without housing, must survive in full sight of the public. Youth are taught, through shameful example, to treat houseless people inhumanely and speak to them without decency or respect. Meanwhile, rampant prejudice spreads and excessive tax dollars are wasted on ‘zero tolerance policing’ as business people, parents, politicians, and police blame houseless folks for every local problem, from riverside garbage (i.e. dumped refrigerators) to teenage drug addiction!
We are four active women in the community, from Northern and Southern Humboldt, who have been documenting abuses against houseless people and speaking with various folks about the increasingly oppressive climate. Our core group has many years of experience and knowledge regarding local laws, county history, police activity, gentrification, and most importantly, the houseless ‘experience’ in Humboldt County. We invite others to meet and discuss future plans concerning ongoing raids on public and private lands that are displacing community members. We are also seeking Civil and Human Rights attorneys to join our efforts.
We recognize that the County has been criminalizing and displacing, not only houseless folks, but also poor people living on private rural properties (“code enforcement” victims) and Indian reservations, in addition to undocumented immigrants. Thus, we welcome discussion that acknowledges the intersections of these situations and the need to address all actions which target the most vulnerable people in our communities.
If you are interested in meeting with us or finding out more, please call:
in SoHum: Kathy Epling (707) 923-4488
in Northern Humboldt: Kathy Anderson (707) 444-3155
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org