Homeless advocates to unveil sanctuary camp plan

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, a local nonprofit advocacy group, invites public comment during the presentation of its pilot “sanctuary camp proposal” at a Monday afternoon meeting at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Facility in Eureka.

According to an AHHA press release, the group wants to answer questions, address concerns and take community suggestions on its plan to establish a safe and legal sanctuary for the homeless during the meeting.

Eureka Mayor Frank Jager at the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting expressed support for a temporary encampment to house people now camping illegally in the Palco Marsh who will be displaced by the construction of the Waterfront Trail.

“We’re not going to be able to house 250 people in the next two and a half months when we begin construction,” Jager said, asking the council to direct city staff to return the council before mid-April with a proposal for a possible camp site, to be run by a nonprofit group.

He added that he would be opposed to a permanent camp within Eureka but it would be up to the county if the camp was made outside the city limits.

AHHA has applied to Humboldt County for $55,548 in Measure Z funds for the 2016-17 fiscal year to help pay for just such a camp.

“Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, Inc. (AHHA) will develop and supervise a safe, legal, transitional sanctuary camp, as a model for housing first for the current population of over 600 homeless persons in the Eureka area,” the application reads. “This model affordable transitional solution to housing homeless without access to permanent housing will allow for the City and County to implement the adopted Focus Strategies Housing First Model over the next years (only permanent housing) and provide a safe, healthy, legal places for people to be while permanent housing is being developed.”

For the 2016-17 fiscal year, AHHA has also filed a $63,933 Measure Z funding request for the development of temporary transitional housing for the homeless in the form of a “Tiny House Village” and a $55,880 request toward the establishment of a temporary “Safe Parking Program” to allow the homeless to camp in parked cars at multiple sites.

A Measure Z Citizens’ Advisory Committee will make recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors on which funding proposals to approve, beginning with the committee’s first meeting of the year on March 10.

“I really appreciate the enthusiasm that AHHA brings to the table in looking at this incredible challenge our community faces,” 4th District Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass wrote in an email. “While I am not sold on the idea that a sanctuary camp is a good way to help someone who is homeless I am always interested in learning more.

“I understand that the city of Eureka is facing some extenuating circumstances which is making them need to look at quick, short term options and I appreciate the difficult decisions that they are facing.”

Monday afternoon will be the first time the AHHA proposal is made public, the release states, and copies will be available at the meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. The group is planning to host discussions about housing alternatives for homeless people at the same time and place every first and third Monday of each month.

“I think it’s very important to keep in mind that the county and the city have very publicly joined together in support of the housing first model but at the same time I recognize that sometimes you need to think outside of the box,” Bass wrote. “Working with partners in the community who are willing to do the work and invest resources is helpful.”

Cresswell, Hunter. “Homeless advocates to unveil sanctuary camp plan” Times Standard News [Eureka] 05 March 2016

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