Deputies and inmates remove items during a sweep of southern Humboldt homeless encampments (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Elkins of KMUD News)
Southern Humboldt today, Tuesday, October 12, experienced a series of raids in homeless camps throughout the area. Sheriff’s deputies along with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and seven inmates removed items from the encampments. County Roads provided assistance. No arrests were made.
KMUD’s Cynthia Elkins put together an exceptionally informative story on the operations (go to tonight’s news and listen about 16/17 minutes into the broadcast. See photos she took here.) According to her interview with Martin Abshire of the CHP, the inmates and officers removed needles, drugs and glass as well as other debris. Abshire says the officers were “not interested in taking people’s stuff” and tried to leave personal items alone.
Kathy Epling, a local business owner and often advocate for the homeless, thinks that many needed items were taken though. “I understand a ton (literally, actually) of gear was dumped by the sheriff at the transfer station… We are going to be in big need of blankets and sleeping bags as the weather cools; we have a lot of people without now.”
Debra Carey, a local woman who works with the homeless, said the raids swept up “sleeping bags, blankets, tarps, food, cell phones, personal pictures, …cardboard the people sleep on, some garbage… Everything… they just cleaned out camps, as the people sat at the edge of each town waiting for them to leave. The people were devastated. I just got home from handing out blankets and coats. I just don’t have the resources to reach all.
People will be cold tonight.”
Epling also told of increasing hostility in the community towards travelers and local homeless. Recently, she said, a vehicle drove into a homeless camp running over sleeping bags without knowing whether or not someone was in them. She also told of a local homeless man, who was attacked today. According to Epling, “A woman in a blue pickup …drove by my shop, yelling obscenities. And then she or her passenger shot Vern Willis with a paint gun.” Epling pointed out that the actions paralleled behavior advocated on Facebook posts of earlier Redheaded Blackbelt stories about the vagrancy issues in the Southern Humboldt area. (Another piece here.)