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Group pushes for Humboldt County supervisors to declare shelter crisis

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EUREKA, Calif. - At Tuesday, Nov. 7's Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, an organization, Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA), presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures proposing that the board declare a countywide shelter crisis.

Nezzie Wade, an AHHA representative, explained the terms of the petition. "Taking into consideration the large numbers of homeless that we have, and that we have no affordable housing, it asks them to put the topic of a shelter crisis declaration on the agenda, so that we can have a public discussion about it," Wade said.

She said this is not the first time AHHA has brought this up to the Board.

"In January it will have been four years since we worked with the human rights commission to send the first letter to the Board of Supervisors."

State legislation allows governments that declare a shelter crisis to build temporary housing without having to adhere to building codes. The government is required to come up with a plan on how to handle the shelter crisis and must report periodically to the state Senate.

Wade said in the past, the Board has made it clear that they don't think it's a good idea.

"There was nothing forthcoming, there's never been anything forthcoming," she said.

However, in 2016, the City of Eureka declared a shelter crisis. This allowed the city to team up with the Betty Kwan Chinn foundation to create two temporary housing villages. Wade hopes the city will set an example for the county.

"It is allowing them to bring people in and get them into safe, warm, dry conditions."

She believes temporary housing is an important step in getting people off the street and back into the community.

County supervisor Virginia Bass said that while homelessness is an important issue, there won't be room for it on the next Board of Supervisors meeting agenda. "They can't sleep because they are made to move and they can't keep their possessions safe," Wade said. "They're adulated and get their possessions stolen. If they didn't have to do a lot of that it would be difficult to tell sometimes who is homeless and who isn't"

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