File photo: Andrew Goff.


Open letter from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission<:/p>

To Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and all concerned parties:

The following statement was approved by the Human Rights Commission on 9 November 2021:


Humboldt County has been declared a shelter crisis County in the State of California. Humboldt County needs to comply with its own Resolution No. 18-15 (Feb 2018) and all requirements of AB2553 (Chapter 147) or risk the loss of funding and other consequences. Details can be found in the August 12, 2021 letter from The Housing Trust Fund and Homelessness Solutions of Humboldt County Committee Chair S. Lynn Martinez [attached].

The members of the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission recognize the efforts of the Board of Supervisors to alleviate the aggravated conditions of homelessness over the past decade and a half. We applaud the numerous county agencies and local providers who have led the way. But after nearly fourteen years, the problems related to homelessness have gotten worse and the COVID-19 epidemic has exacerbated the issue.

Meetings with all the local entities have highlighted these seven concerns:

  1. A lack of a steady stream of funding
  2. Substantial barriers to receive federal and state funds (regulations)
  3. The need for education and legal services

  4. Partnerships with local clinics and mental health practitioners
  5. Land and infrastructure for affordable housing (access to restrooms and clean, hot water)
  6. Relaxing zoning and regulations that restrict alternative living arrangements as authorized by the state’s Declaration of Shelter Crisis
  7. Safe access to shelter and basic amenities including Wi-Fi

The lack of housing and mental health care services is especially acute and considering the new polytechnic designation of Humboldt State University and its projected attraction of some 7-12,000 new students will become even more oppressive.


• The State of California and Board of Supervisors in recent years have established programs to convert old motels into housing and fund hotel stays. Local providers have coordinated efforts to safely house many. The Board of Supervisors must encumber more funds for the hotel and motel conversions that have successfully provided temporary and emergency housing for those in need and provide immediate assistance to those in need as we enter the winter months. We should develop a model that sees all homeowners as a shelter and safe parking for people.

• Efforts must be redoubled to acquire regular funding, coordinate with federal, state, and local entities to keep funds allocated and not lose them to bureaucratic barriers. Enlist support from the California Center for Rural Policy to ensure Humboldt is set up to receive and facilitate all federal grants and monies awarded to the County for homelessness issues.

• Initiate the largest building (and conversion) effort since the New Deal to ensure all have housing who need it. We have the local talent to do it! The state has authorized $12 billion to build 42,000 housing units over the next 24-36 months. We should immediately fight to secure our share of these funds.

• Provide alternative living areas locally, specifically: legal campgrounds with adequate safety and sanitation including showers and sanitary supplies; safe parking areas, so we can avoid time consuming, costly and unnecessary citations and further displacement of homeless people; and restroom facilities. This would provide needed legal and safe County designated areas to support the human rights to housing and basic necessities for multiple homeless demographics in the County, including for students. Immediately approve the trio of a legal campground, safe parking, and restroom facilities on County property in each of the following communities: Garberville, Fortuna, Eureka, Arcata, Trinidad, and McKinleyville.

• Encumber additional funds to extend and broaden a successful mobile showers program that has served many and continues to support multiple demographics in Humboldt County, as well as their implementation of a model alternative transitional living pilot project for sleeping cabins with a central facility capable of meeting the needs of the residents for food preparation, restrooms, lighting, and waste disposal.

• Enlarge our mental health footprint taking the strain off local law enforcement, freeing them to increase their presence in areas of need. Sempervirens, a sixteen-bed facility, is an inadequate a facility to serve an area encompassing over 300 miles radius. Eighty or more beds in the Humboldt County Correctional Facility are devoted to mental health care for the incarcerated; we definitely need to focus on delinking the criminal justice and mental health systems. We need better and more facilities for mental health treatment and trauma recovery. A mental health philosophy built around rehabilitation versus incarceration should be encouraged wherever possible.

• Increase the job training opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and affordable childcare for those able to work.

• Add and coordinate safe locations to power and access Wi-Fi so people can stay in communication with loved ones, agency support, job search, health care, emergency needs etc.

• Humboldt County has missed critical deadlines required in the State’s AB 2553 law and we fear losing much needed funding opportunities. Our suggestion is to appoint a well-connected and skilled Housing Facilitator empowered to coordinate all relevant activities to get us in compliance and prepare Humboldt County to receive the housing funds provided by the state. And empower this position to access data from all relevant state and federal agencies (Including the California State Homeless Coordinating and Financial Council and California Center for Rural Policy), and coordinate the work needed from various county silos and program coordinators that serve these people. Also expand the scope and amend the governing documents of the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition to include the local tribes, all clinics for mental health services and make it accessible for public participation. Provide the adequate funding and staff to ensure successful impact in city and rural areas in both Northern and Southern Humboldt. We also recommend performance requirements and transparency to ensure we get this job done for our community.

• We suggest a third-party agency expand the search for more funding opportunities and manage the funding, so we have more helping hands to support this effort.

We expect the Board of Supervisors to respond to the seven concerns listed above and specify which actions they will take by 12/15/21. We sincerely believe it is in the best interests of our community that we accomplish this without further delay.


Mary Ann Lyons
Chair, Humboldt County Human Rights Commission