This is a guest post from the Commenter we call “Midnight Anonymous” we agree with most everything “Midnight” espouses here especially on Eurekas homeless policy. Where we differ is we think the Nuisance Ordinance should just be cleaned up; not thrown out.
In his book, “When Work Disappears” William Wilson cites a study by Delbert Elliot where researchers, controlling for joblessness, found no differences in violent crime rates between the middle-class and the impoverished. In “Charting Race and Class Differences”, researcher Tracy Mears reveals a remarkable pattern in less educated individuals that are far more likely to pursue punitive punishments for all levels of social infractions.
These research examples were being illustrated one late Tuesday night on October 20th when the Eureka city council passed its new draconian “Homeless Policy” and a “Nuisance Ordinance”. Not one of our celebrated all-female city council members made a motion for a “friendly amendment” that would temper the Homeless Policy’s blatant prejudicial references to “criminals, addicts and mentally ill” instead of men, women and children, or to correct the policy’s baseless claims that Eureka has “above average numbers of homeless”, or that they are “camping”, are “a risk to the community” or “impeding tourism”, a watershed of prejudicial flapdoodle inappropriate for public policy. These new policies and laws are predicated upon “Eviction First” without appeal. Public policy priorities based upon unjust prejudices, bigotry, hatred and fantasy are reminiscent of all the other barbaric ritualized sacrifices throughout history; selecting one segment of the community, (usually the weakest and most vulnerable), to criminalize and punish.
In astounding displays before God and TV this community’s proud Yokels, emboldened by their singular credential of being property owners, poured forth every disparaging condemnation of entire classes of poor people, renters and homeless, without the slightest knowledge or care for who they are, their population, or the imperatives and obligations to ethically and equitably frame policies that serve everyone’s basic needs and legal rights. Eureka city council member Melinda Ciarabellini simply condemns the homeless as “trespassers”, not to be confused with supervisor Rex Bohn’s family members shooting at Ducks near Chevron’s fuel storage tanks, a story described by the late environmentalist Mel McKinney who confronted the shooter. No one was arrested.
At least homeless advocates have been successful in rustling this community’s curmudgeons from under their rocks; individuals willing to make outrageous public appearances to defend the indefensible.
In order to facilitate passage of Eureka’s unjust and bigoted policies, the Eureka city council required that the “little people” submit their names in writing prior to being called to speak at the October 20, 2015 city council meeting. The purpose was to allow more important community members, (representatives of absentee business owners Chevron and Bayshore Mall), to speak first and set the tone, followed by a few more supporters of homeless eviction for good measure. Chevron’s manager testified that an (alleged) transient was seen shooting a rifle near their fuel storage tanks creating the potential of “mass-fatalities” if a tank were hit, a terrifying prospect that was kept quiet when the tanks were constructed, back when trespassing to hunt was “OK”. The Bayshore Mall, unwilling to properly fund security or fencing, testified that only the homeless were dumping garbage on its property.
Right wing political Pooh-Bah Matthew Owen offered his trademark sophistry claiming that Humboldt County has already fulfilled its responsibility with “800 HUD units” failing to mention that they are predominantly filled by low-income elderly, not the penniless homeless for who little is available. HUD housing requires extensive applications for qualification that can include lotteries and decades-long waiting lists in some cities. Owen claims, “no one is stopping (do-gooders) from building homeless housing”. (Easy to say when none is being built and Eureka and Humboldt County are not complying with their legal responsibilities for all residents). Misleading and bigoted comments by Matthew Owen or Sue Brandenburg, among others, are the kinds of comments that motivated Eureka youths to attack the homeless, similar to incidents recurring throughout the nation.
Many of our local bigots are also cheerleaders and beneficiaries of Humboldt County’s legacy of corruption that maintains power in the hands of the development industry. In a striking example of corrupt double standards, Humboldt County’s legal settlement with HumCPR, exposes the disparate application of justice between propertied and non-propertied residents:
As part of the settlement, property owner’s past violations are forgiven; building inspection and penalty fees are waived; enforcement is replaced with “incentives to encourage lawful behavior”; propertied violators are provided with self-regulating authority in the future.
Piling on the irony, Humboldt County named this double-standard, “The Safe homes Program” described in the development industry’s newsletter as, “An absolute boon for property owners with (illegal) structures”. (Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights newsletter, Fall, 2015). Humboldt County has legislated “Safe Homes” for propertied violators while homeless men, women and children, (lacking safe and stable alternatives but to “trespass”), are denied the wooden pallets needed to keep them 3 inches off the wet ground.
Where is the outrage?
While local bigots cry to government over the environmental damage caused by the homeless, HumCPR won codification of 300 year old Lockean ideology in a monumental double standard of justice to deregulate rural development at a time of prolonged drought, biodiversity collapse, unfunded infrastructure liabilities, shrinking municipal budgets, and critical infill housing shortages. It was never about rural homesteaders building and selling their own homes. Deregulation is SoCal redux; first comes the ranchettes and mini-kingdoms…then the McMansion subdivisions that are all being patiently anticipated from the “market forces” of the next manipulated housing bubble.
“So-long rural lifestyle, thanks for everything”!
Homeless residents are forced to defecate behind bushes while others let their sewage drip out of their 5 MPG Winnebago’s with Hummer-in-tow, along the nation’s highways, or into Martin Slough and Humboldt Bay following decades of over-development. One is ignored, one is vilified. Similarly, a short tour of Eureka reveals its “Open Armpit Policy” for blighted properties, vacant storefronts, abandoned buildings and predatory businesses regardless of their negative economic and social impacts. Taken altogether, it’s a menagerie of corruption and double standards; propertied violators being treated in a dramatically different manner than the non-propertied, best described by Thomas Creech in the 17th century, “In equal crimes unequal fates are found, one swings while the other’s crowned”.
Local bigots have abandoned all sense of proportion to serve their prejudices against the homeless while thousands of people exploit nature limited only by their wealth.
One reason for the deafening silence following passage of Eureka’s unethical and unjust Homeless Policy and Nuisance Ordinance last October 20, is due to shame. Witnessing the living conditions, hygiene, and health of this community’s poor and homeless, reveals far more about us than about them. California’s Welfare and Institutions Code makes it clear that counties are responsible for providing essential services for indigent residents, yet, representatives and professionals that are fully aware of the homeless and housing crisis, will not officially declare that a crisis exists.
Their cynical silence is essential to facilitate prejudicial enforcement of law.
Should homeless advocates shed the tyranny of compromise and “positive thinking” that undermines their effectiveness by adopting the winning strategies of HumCPR? It is unlikely that the local Forces of Good will overcome a corrupt highest-bidder political culture anytime soon, but, advocates can follow HumCPR’s lead by suing Humboldt County, in this case, to enforce existing laws to provide adequate essential services for the homeless as a first step to implement well-known, permanent solutions. Or, we can wait forever for local professionals, bureaucrats, media and representatives to overcome their self-censorship under the fear and favor of corrupt public pressure and employers.
Utah has proven that providing the chronic homeless the independence and dignity of free, modest apartments not only pays for itself in diminished police calls, admissions to mental health wards, jails, drug rehab facilities and emergency rooms, the stabilization, independence, dignity and prosperity of indigent residents has positive impacts on all other classes of residents.
The time is long past to begin repurposing blighted lots and buildings through eminent domain for the homeless and to stop exacerbating chronic, costly and avoidable human tragedies where one or more homeless individuals will needlessly suffer a long, agonizing death huddled on a city sidewalk, in a cold, damp tent, or beaten to death by local teens. Humboldt County cannot provide housing for all of the homeless, but it can begin constructing apartments for the number of homeless commensurate with the national average.
Do we live in a community that’s simply too inundated with corruption, injustice, cruelty and its well-connected agents that average residents must risk the reporting? The blogs are now the only avenue safe for journalists to practice the lost tradition of sharing in the outrage of their community with thorough reporting of the hypocrisy, sophistry, irony and injustice obscuring our most daunting issues.