EUREKA- More than 200 community members gathered in Eureka over the weekend to discuss how homeless people can have access to safe, legal places to live in Humboldt County.
Homeless people, service providers, lawmakers and others gathered at the Eureka Women’s Club on Saturday for the Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Forum.
"We don't have options for people who need shelter now. There's a lot of things that encumber programs that exist that can't provide that kind of support,” said Nezzie Wade, an Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives member.
The need for other vital services for homeless people was discussed at the forum, as well.
"We don't even have many public restrooms. There's no place for people to even urinate or defecate and that's a travesty. We could do many more things to make life livable and create a healthy environment for everybody," Wade said.
Andrew Heben discussed Opportunity Village Eugene, a collection of tiny houses in Eugene, Oregon, where homeless people can live as long as they contribute to the betterment of the community.
"It's self managed. It's not a top down authority that throws money at a project and says here's how you're going to do it. It's people creating their experience and their lives that gives them the opportunity to be full on participants, to have some self respect and it gives them a space where they can have privacy," said Wade.
Opportuniy Village Eugene has housed 58 people, something Eureka City Council Member Melinda Ciarabellini says is a concern.
"It was a good solution for that group of people. I don't know what impact it might have on getting these campers out of our greenbelt area and moved some place else," said Council Member Ciarabellini.
Council Member Linda Atkins is in favor of having a tiny house village in Eureka.
"Right now, we have people living in the marshes and the gulches and both of those are environmental disasters. We also have people living in the alleys and stuff in town, which is also an environmental disaster for the people they live near and I think it would be better to have a legal place for people to live where there's port potties and trash and some sort of organization to help people out of being homeless, rather than just having them camping all around the city," said Council Member Atkins.
The construction of sanctuary camps and more rest stops was also discussed at the forum. AHHA members say the key to address the county’s homelessness issue is for the community to work together.
"Maybe you're a builder. Maybe you have materials. Maybe you can make public policy. Maybe you can mobilize public resources. Whatever it is. Let's work on some of these as a community," Wade said.
The next Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Meeting will be held on December 6th at the Jefferson Community Center in Eureka.