Times Standard (Eureka)
Residents: We need warming shelters
Tuesday night study session focuses on housing, homelessness
At Tuesday’s Arcata City Council study session, several residents planned on asking the city to offer emergency shelters for local homeless people to use while temperatures drop and precipitation rises.
Throughout the week, Arcata is forecast to see wet weather, a possibility of light snow and temperatures ranging from 27 to 50 degrees, which some Arcata residents say endangers the lives of those priced out of local housing markets and forced to sleep rough on the city’s streets overnight.
“We just feel that people are going to die,” Nancy Pelletier, a concerned resident, said.
Pelletier cited the death of 57-year-old Nancy Barnes, a homeless woman who was found dead on the front doorstep of Arcata City Hall as the kind of avoidable tragedy the city could help prevent. Barnes, who was found on Dec. 5 by city staff coming to work in the morning, died of sudden cardiac arrest, according to the Humboldt County Coronor’s Office.
Pelletier said she believes the cold temperatures the night Barnes fell asleep in front of city hall contributed to her death, citing a University College London study finding that exposure to colder temperatures was linked to higher blood pressure in the subjects.
“We really are asking them to open up one of the city-owned buildings like the D Street Community Center or the one on Martin Luther King Parkway. They have large rooms, and they could accommodate a lot of people.”
Pelletier added that she and other residents — she described her group as herself and “only about five elderly ladies” — are not asking the city to run the shelters and assume all liability
for them, but only to open a space that can be used in an emergency by other local agencies or nonprofits until temperatures rise again.
At the meeting at 6 p.m., the Arcata City Council will discuss their goals for housing, homelessness and safe streets in a study session. City Manager Karen Diemer and Mayor Sarah Schaefer did not respond to a request for comment by the Times-Standard’s print deadline.
Humboldt County, in a news release, stated there would be warming centers open across the county, but the northern Humboldt County locations — two of them — are located in Eureka.
Pelletier cited the increasing amount of elderly people becoming homeless as another reason the city should open emergency shelters, as they can face increased physical risk when exposed to freezing temperatures.
The council’s full agenda for the meeting may be viewed at http://arcataca.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=3280&Inline=True.
Jackson Guilfoil may be reached at 707-441-0506.