Humboldt Needs Extreme Weather Shelters -- What You Can Do
Three representatives from the Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) gave a special presentation to the Humboldt County Cannabis Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Homelessness and lack of housing are major issues for our community, but the harsh winter ahead presents a more imminent problem, the board was told.
This year, there is a dangerous lack of extreme weather shelters -- that means when the rain is pouring and the wind howling, hundreds of families and individuals living on the streets or in their cars in Humboldt County will have no legal place to stay warm and keep dry.
But it doesn't have to be that way all winter. To get extreme weather shelters going in Humboldt for 2017-2018 winter, the AHHA representatives said 2 things need to happen:
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors must approve a Shelter Crisis to allow for the flexibility to find and utilize an appropriate location in time. They shared an open letter with us that is copied below. If you would like to support their efforts, download a copy and send it to the Board of Supervisors.
Once the crisis is declared, AHHA must find a vacant commercial/industrial building or old barn anywhere in Humboldt County that could use a renter for the winter. Note: Occupied buildings are often cheaper to insure than vacant ones.
Think you can contribute to AHHA in some other fashion? Find out how.
Open Letter from AHHA
Dear Humboldt County Board of Supervisors,
AHHA would like to share our understanding of the benefit and intent of a shelter crisis declaration for Humboldt County. We are asking for your support in placing the shelter crisis declaration on your agenda before the end of the year. Doing so will allow for public input and discussion. There is tremendous value in a declaration, particularly for our county, outside of and in addition to funding possibilities.
In a rural county, with a widespread chronically homeless population and several very independent cities, declaring a shelter crisis is important direction and critical support for the county to provide. The California legislation on Shelter Crisis was intended to be broadly applicable, when necessary. The cities (or city of Eureka) so far have been very specific, a general declaration would be helpful too, in many ways. This law was intended to be a way for a county or city to give very generalized and critical assistance to many efforts underway to aid this crisis.
Housing and Community Development (and HUD presumably) are looking at counties to see if they are supporting or looking at solutions for their communities. There is a broad spectrum of potential support; many lenders and foundations want to add to and contribute to county supported efforts. County support, via this declaration, will be used in grant applications to federal, state, local public and private lenders. Staff interpretations of rules and regulations that might otherwise bar a project or practice will be viewed under a different light. A declaration gives clear direction to all decision makers about what projects and programs to support. Eureka declared a shelter crisis and uses a narrowly defined geographic location to limit the (also limited) benefits. It is not clear to many what Eureka wants to support; a more general declaration could have much greater positive effect on our housing crisis. The county administers several agencies, DHHS, Building and Planning, the Department of Public Works for instance, that have tremendous power to assist any and all programs and projects. This was the intent of the law, to allow jurisdictions to wave requirements that prevent emergency shelters from operating. Permits and approvals can be entirely waived as needed. Projects can be moved up in priority, essentially anything necessary to accomplish a project immediately can be allowed.
This is a crisis. People are being injured. The lack of adequate shelter has been recognized by the state and they have passed legislation to enable the counties to take all of the steps within the power of county governments without the normal liability they would be subject to, within reason. This power can have far more economic impacts on public health and safety, and costs savings to the county related to emergency services, hospitalization, law enforcement and incarceration than any specific grant or funding. The legislation was targeted in part to allow things like 'tiny house" communities to be formed and constructed within reasonable health and safety considerations that are far, far reduced. This is happening in many California cities now. AHHA cannot urge the BOS more strongly to acknowledge this shelter crisis, by simply declaring this county to be impacted by a severe shortage of housing, affordable housing, emergency housing and areas that allow impoverished citizens to exist safely near necessary services.
The emergency shelter declaration can go several steps further, as is necessary in this county, by examining county controlled property for use as emergency shelter. In SF and other jurisdictions this has included warehouses, schools and other property that can be safely used to allow people to shelter in tents, RV's and cars. These are supervised settings where services can be delivered and where police can provide security for all. There are now many elderly and ailing citizens facing a winter without housing, without secured storage, without a legal address necessary to even begin to get assistance. These are unfortunate times and a shelter declaration is a necessary 1st step, and next step in this county, in order to prevent further tragedies.
AHHA hopes the Supervisors will recognize the benefits possible that are allowed by this legislation and place the shelter crisis on your agenda as soon as possible. Humboldt County really needs this set of waivers and declaration of support in order to get several shelter options working this winter and on into the new year. The impoverished citizens of our county need this.
Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, Inc. AHHA Board of Directors