EUREKA, Calif. (KIEM) — A 4 to 1 vote by the Eureka City Council advanced a new ordinance that prohibits camping of any kind in the Downtown and Old Town District, the Waterfront and Northern Gateway Business Districts, and Henderson Center. The golf course, sequoia park zoo, and any parks or trails are included as well.
It does allow for what the City and Eureka Police are calling involuntary camping, or when someone doesn’t have access to shelter, in most parts of the city during night time hours.
“It actually gives us some legal backing to contact those individuals who are in a public space who are outside a certain time frame as listed in the ordinance, and to deal with the issues surrounding the camping, so that the public spaces in the City of Eureka can be used by all parties, all citizens, and everyone,” according to Captain Brian Stephens of the Eureka Police Department.
The time constraints in the ordinance exclude the 15 minutes after sunrise and 15 minutes before sunset, understanding people need to time to set up or take down their camping equipment. Community members spoke out at Tuesday’s city council meeting with concerns the new ordinance may criminalize the homeless population and their behavior when they have nowhere else to go.
Captain Brian Stephens says their approach will remain the same, and will be more of a conversation. Violating the ban was also reduced to an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
“Our CSET team does and tries to get them the services they need, hook them up with the proper agencies, so we can get actually them off the street. That’s our ultimate goal, to find housing and find the proper care for some of our community members that are homeless,” Stephens says.
The new ordinance aims to be more in compliance with the current federal law. For more information, visit the City of Eureka’s website.