Times Standard (Eureka)
Shelters adapt in cold weather events
This winter has seen coastal snow in Eureka. For residents experiencing homelessness, this might mean exposure to the elements — unless they find somewhere to stay.
“We haven’t had to turn anybody away (on the men’s side), because we’ll make a spot,” said Bryan Hall, executive director of Eureka Rescue Mission.
The Mission, which has the largest number of beds in Eureka, sees an influx of people when it rains or snows. The shelter can lessen some restrictions during weather events, allowing people who are intoxicated to stay, as long as they are not violent.
The Mission has a men’s and a women’s side. The women’s side has a more limited number of spots because of renovations. This year, St. Vincent De Paul’s overflow shelter was put to use for a few weeks while Mission renovations were at their peak. The women’s side has since opened up more beds, and St. Vincent’s has not been needed as an overflow shelter for a while.
Betty Chinn’s overnight shelter takes reservations, where people can call in to keep a sleeping space. Her spots fill up early in the day, especially during cold weather events. Chinn noted people sometimes do not show up for their spot, up to a third on some days, which leaves beds empty that could be used.
Chinn said that some people do not want to sleep in her shelter, and choose instead to sleep outside even during weather events.
“I even myself go out and invite them to come, but they say no, they like the outside better,” she said.
As a condition for Chinn’s, people may not use drugs or alcohol. The Mission does not allow drug use and usually does not allow intoxicated people to stay. Both overnight shelters do not allow dogs.
Eureka hosted a special meeting last week on authorized encampments and tiny homes, which discussed special types of emergency shelters the city could authorize. Shelters such as tiny home villages, trailers, authorized areas for tents and safe parking lots that can accommodate peo
ple experiencing homelessness in varying situations. Families, people with animals and people who sleep in their cars or trailers can prefer such shelters to living in group-style shelters. Some will pay for a night in a hotel, or stay temporarily with someone else. The city is looking for nonprofit organizations that will take on projects such as tiny home villages or authorized encampment areas, but reported at the meeting there were no takers so far.
Humboldt County, too, is looking for collaborators to operate a safe parking lot.
“A little bit frustrating, frankly, that we haven’t had more participation,” said Michael Richardson, supervising planner for the county.
The pilot program would allocate funding for the parking lot, and is accepting private and nonprofit partnerships to get the pilot program off the ground.
Betty Chinn currently does not have the capacity to operate the kind of authorized encampments discussed in the meeting but does offer other special services to meet the needs of unhoused people that aren’t served by group shelters.
The Betty Chinn Day Center operates a place to keep warm during the day year-round. The Mission operates a warming area that uses kerosene furnaces to keep people warm during bad weather.
Additional shelter situations are available for those experiencing domestic violence, families and people working with Child Protective Services or Calworks.
“To be honest with you, the biggest struggle we have in our community is fentanyl,” said Hall.
He noted eight overdoses in the past six months or so inside of the Mission. Staff were able to successfully administer naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, in all instances. He estimates that many more occur on the streets. With some individuals, he noted overdoses have prompted their participation in the Mission’s year-long residential program.
Dial 211 if you are experiencing a housing crisis to learn of resources that can help, or visit https://211humboldt.org/.