It’s just after 8 a.m. on a Thursday. A group is about to start their weekly hour-long meeting to address homeless related issues in Humboldt County.
"We put up some goals, issues, ways we can address these problems," Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn said.
It’s a group made up county and city agencies— all bringing something different to the table in hopes of getting people off the streets. Some of the issues include numerous service calls, aggressive panhandling and environmental damage.
"We have to take them out of our riverbanks, we have to take them off our private property because of the ecological damage along our waterfront that's being cause by homeless encampments," Bohn said.
'Green Belt' is a strip of vegetation that surrounds the waterfront behind the Bayshore Mall. It’s a common place for homeless to set up camps and live off the land. Officials said the damage is only one part of the issue. Firefighters and police respond to service calls on a daily basis. But what isn’t good for the land isn’t good for the people either. For some, this is the only choice they have.
“I’m reduced to living out in the woods, if you want to call it this,” Eugene Robinson said. “Struggling everyday just to have food for me."
Robinson said he was living in the Blue Heron Motel on Broadway. However, it caught fire at the beginning of the year and forced him to look elsewhere. After several failed attempts, he settled in the Green Belt.
"I’m in a situation now where I have to figure out how much money can I make today and how far can I stretch it and how many friends I actually have that's going to help me," Robinson said.
He’s just one of the roughly thousand homeless people in Humboldt County. Some have experienced hard times. Others are drug users. Then again, some just prefer the lifestyle. But the majority—
"The number of the people who are on the streets and have mental health issues are staggering,” Bohn said. “We need to figure out how to get them the help they need."
The group is also working to address “transients,” the people who came to Humboldt for a temporary gig, and then got stuck.
"I’m homeless,” Rusty Carlin said. “I sleep in a sleeping bag wherever I can find. It’s difficult.”
Carlin came here from the Bay Area for a job and then lost it. Now he’s homeless and having trouble getting back.
"All I want is to go to San Francisco and be with my friends and sleep in a nice warm bed and get a job you know," Carlin said.
County and city officials hope that if they can find a way to get those people home, move people out of the Green Belt and reach out to those with a mental illness, it will be beneficial on both ends. They’re looking at what kind of services can be useful, and how to educate the public to change the stigma that surrounds the word “homeless.”
“I’m just a man out here hurting,” Robinson said. “Because things are just not falling into place the way things are suppose to be."
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