Nezzie Wade / Tuesday, April 5, 2016 @ 7:22 a.m. / Op-Ed
OP-ED: Sanctuary Camp Proponents Set the Record Straight
Some news articles contain significant misinformation about AHHA (Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives) and the City of Eureka. It was reported that AHHA refused an offer by the City for a space and help providing for a Sanctuary Camp. This is not the case. City Manager Greg Sparks recently invited AHHA board members to discuss what AHHA could do to help mitigate the immediate displacement of approximately 200 people living in Palco Marsh when the City begins demolition and trail construction in May. AHHA discussed proposals for safe parking programs, sanctuary camps and tiny house villages as options either separately or combined, and responded to specific questions from the City Manager.
Last Friday, the City issued a “Request For Proposals” (RFP) for organizations or individuals to come forward with an “exit strategy” for relocation of the 200 residents. The RFP requires the proposer to locate the necessary land, have ten years’ experience with documented evidence of success, and to meet the City’s extreme requirements for insurance coverage ($5 million per incident or injury). The City says it will offer no resources and will pay no costs for the proposed “exit strategy.”
A recent blog post on the RFP stated “ … the city emphasizes that it is looking for a temporary camp, one that is to last six months, maximum. This is the provision that seems to have permanently killed a potential arrangement with Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, Inc., the local group that has done the most work exploring sanctioned homeless camps. Despite this, the city is hoping that other groups will step up.” An earlier post said, “By the end of this afternoon’s presentation, though, it became painfully clear that AHHA’s ’Sanctuary Camps in Humboldt County’ plan will not be acceptable to the City, and the City’s call for action will not be acceptable to AHHA.” This is inaccurate. No offer to cooperate on a camp was ever conveyed to AHHA by the City.
AHHA has never refused to work with the City but we see more problems than solutions in creation of a temporary camp that will be dismantled at the end of 6 months. AHHA has explained why this temporary camp is a bad idea in terms of procuring funding; and the impact on the people and the City when the people are again removed after 6 months. There is no reason to believe that permanent housing will be available after six months time.
This does not mean AHHA won’t work with the City. AHHA remains available to implement any workable legal proposal from the City of Eureka that meets potential lenders’ requirements (none will fund a 6 month project), and is in line with the Humboldt County/Eureka “Housing First” Implementation Plan (which discourages the approach the City is taking: expulsion without a legal place to move into). The current RFP issued by the City of Eureka is not in accord with these requirements, nor with the Mayor’s request for a sanctuary camp.
AHHA will coordinate and collaborate with all who understand that the Palco Marsh situation needs a resolution in a manner that meets the needs of all the interested parties. If the City is willing to immediately allow the Palco Marsh residents to move to a new legal location it could be possible to accommodate trail construction. AHHA cannot accommodate the RFP’s request to implement a move by May 2nd when the award date of any proposal has been set by Eureka City staff as May 3rd.
The Chief of Police informed residents they must be gone by May 2 or they will be arrested and removed, with 90 days to claim any of their possessions the city is willing to store. Residents’ animals will be conﬁscated, given shots and neutered. Pet owners must pay the Vet fees in order to reclaim their pets within 10 days after their impoundment or the pets will be euthanized. It is time for our community to speak up. It is hard to understand how this RFP can have been issued in good faith.
Whatever peoples’ thoughts and feelings about our local housing emergency, it is critical that we all understand the history of that emergency and cooperate for a good outcome. It appears that the residents of the Palco Marsh will soon be forced to move. AHHA pledges to work to ensure the best outcome for all.
Nezzie Wade is the president of Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives.