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City of Eureka working to address homelessness issues in Green Belt

EUREKA- A shooting over the weekend in Eureka has left two injured in an area filled with homeless encampments.

On Saturday, Eureka Police received a report of shots fired in the Green Belt, near the foot of Del Norte Street.  When officers arrived, they found a man, Billy Rutherford, with a head wound.  They later received a call from St. Joseph Hospital for a report of another man, Euguene Fulton, being shot in the leg.

"I don't know their status of whether they're housed or un-housed.  But at that time of the morning, in the green belt, one could assume that they were probably down there all night," said Police Chief Andrew Mills with the Eureka Police Department.

The victims did not cooperate with authorities and there are no suspects at this time.  The Green Belt area, where the shootings occurred, is frequently patrolled EPD officials.

"We're doing a level of enforcement behind the mall and in the Green Belt, up Del Norte as well as all the way up to Hilfiker Lane.  So what we'll do is go in there and look for people with warrants, people with drugs, people under the influence, people with weapons, and then take them to jail,” Chief Mills said.

But clearing out the encampments all at once is not an option, according to Chief Mills.

“There have been lawsuits all over the state and all over the county where enforcement on a specific population, such as the homeless, has gone too far.  So we're trying to do things to affect the behavior.  In the meantime, while seeking help to find housing for the people who are truly in need.  So it just can't be one enforcement opportunity,”said Chief Mills.

Between the Community Homeless Improvement Project, a City of Eureka and Humboldt County initiative, as well as other available services, Chief Mills says the city is heading in the right direction.

"Over the past several years, working with Betty Chin, working with Health and Human Services, more than a thousand people have gone to their own homes in different parts of the United States.  That has been because people have funded Betty Chin.  That is because Health and Human Services has been gracious in giving those people money to get back to where they would like to be," Chief Mills said.