Former EPD Chief Mills takes his war on the poor to Santa Cruz

Like Trump and most demigods they need a scapegoat. During the ongoing crime wave in Eureka Mills found a convenient scapegoat with “the homeless”. It would seem he hasn’t changed tactics at his new job.

A woman uses the hand-washing station next to a port-a-potty in San Lorenzo Park on Monday. The city of Santa Cruz is adding stations to address the statewide hepatitis A emergency. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ >> Under the auspices of its new chief, the Santa Cruz Police Department has launched a new approach to homelessness and outdoor sleeping.

In an opinion piece penned for the Sentinel Sunday, Chief Andy Mills revealed his intentions to de-emphasize enforcement of the city’s overnight public camping ban.

“From 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., SCPD will not issue camping citations unless there is a complaint by someone in control of that property or some other crime or nuisance behavior is taking place,” Mills wrote. “Instead, the police will turn their focus to finding those stealing out of your yards, cars and homes during the night.”

In an interview Monday, Mills tempered the reduced focus on enforcing overnight camping laws, saying “unacceptable behavior is unacceptable everywhere.”

“I honestly believe that people need to sleep and that people are healthier when they get sleep, they can make better decisions when they get sleep. If at some point in the future, we can have a place where people can go and sleep lawfully, I think that makes great sense,” Mills said. “At the same time, this gives us the opportunity to say, we can’t enforce this rigorously when there aren’t enough beds or even close to it for people to sleep. But I want to re-emphasize that bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of whether you’re housed or unhoused.”

The chief’s op-ed was published just days after his officers used “personal persuasion rather than positional power” to clear out what he estimated was about a dozen people regularly sleeping along the chain-link fencing outside the downtown post office. Mills said the familiar faces were offered supportive services, such as motel vouchers and mental health services, in the days leading up to the clear-out. The operation was scheduled for Monday, but was moved up after officers reported witnessing “gigantic rats that are crawling in and out of sleeping bags” and had become “unhealthy and unsafe,” Mills said.

“The post office has become such a focal point for many people in the city that we really needed to act on it,” said Mills, adding that the effort was just one piece of longer-term efforts.

A proposal to lift the city’s overnight camping ban in March 2016, led by then-Councilman Don Lane, failed in a 5-2 vote. With passionate community members arguing for and against the idea at the time, opposing council members questioned the long-term benefits of permitting unsheltered sleeping. Councilwoman Richelle Noroyan said at the time the ban was not just about sleeping, but about public health.

“It’s about urinating and defecating and people finding needles in their front yards and people contacting me by the dozens saying they don’t even like to go in their back yards,” Noroyan said.

Vice Mayor David Terrazas said during the same 2016 meeting that the proposal “does not provide the types of solutions that lead to that lasting change.” On Monday, reached for comment on Mills’ plan of action, Terrazas said the sleeping ban was still in effect and that he supports the chief in coming forward with a larger strategy to address a “crisis downtown.”

“I look at this as a very narrow action in regard to a larger comprehensive strategy to better connect those in the greatest of need to services,” Terrazas said, when asked if this may be a precursor to ultimately lifting the camping ban.

“I think we as a council have unanimously approved a subcommittee’s recommendations addressing homelessness in our region and currently are working with Santa Cruz County officials to implement that plan. So we’re not just looking at this as limited to just whether or not someone has any sort of violation of our ordinance, but in regards to how we expand how we are addressing this situation.”

Mills said he has received several community responses and recommendations since his letter was published. Homelessness issues advocate Steve Pleich shared with the Sentinel a “homeless depot shelter” concept he penned with Rabbi Philip Posner and John Kevin Rothwell that would designate legal public sleeping times and location.

In his op-ed, Mills termed the post office encampment as “ground zero” for the local hepatitis A outbreak. Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin stepped back from that statement, saying the city has had a concentration of confirmed patients in the downtown, but that the county has not linked the cases specifically to the post office dwellers.

“There really isn’t an epicenter or a ‘big bang,’” Hoppin said. “We have a concentration of cases downtown, but it’s a sanitation issue, mainly. People need clean places to go to the bathroom and eat.”

The intensified interest on the downtown encampment is the latest city effort to break up larger areas of visible outdoor homeless gatherings, and is tied in with a hepatitis A outbreak numbering 73 confirmed cases countywide. Hoppin said there is not a “huge risk” to the general population of contracting the disease.

Instead, the liver-related illness, spread by contact with feces of people who are infected or from contaminated food or water, has disproportionately affected Santa Cruz County’s homeless and drug-using population, he said. The number of people infected with the disease who do not fit that description “can be counted on one hand,” Hoppin said.

Some of those without homes displaced from the post office were later seen relocating to the San Lorenzo Park “benchlands,” Mills said.

Similar city-led homeless encampment dispersals in the recent past have included large gatherings around Santa Cruz City Hall and the Downtown Santa Cruz Public Library due to negative public interactions, heavy restrictions along the San Lorenzo River levees after the Aug. 23, 2016 fatal shooting of Joey Shuemaker and numerous clearings of encampments in the Pogonip in recent years.


AHHA, therefore, requests that Eureka withdraw its RFP for a “day center”

Humboldt County, and its economic and administrative center, the city of Eureka, has a large population of un-housed families and individuals.  As a result, complaints have arisen from the Eureka business community that the homeless, who have no real place to go, are creating an untidy environment.  The city has appointed one half time position to address this situation.  That position is in the police department and is filled by a person with no apparent background or expertise in homeless issues.  Eureka, like the county, offers no housing options for the people on the streets.  It appears that the more or less unspoken strategy of these local governments is to make life in this community so difficult for the homeless that they will simply “self-deport.”  Other local governments throughout the nation initially adopted that same strategy but many are now recognizing that that is untenable and are working with their own resources and volunteers to provide housing.  Humboldt refuses to seek much of the financial assistance offered by the federal government and generally does not try to work with volunteer organizations.  Indeed Eureka and Humboldt have so alienated the volunteer entities that they have not been able to comply with the federally mandated “Point in Time” count to ascertain the true number of homeless within their boundaries.  Reliable estimates are that there are presently thousands of homeless within the county.

Over the years the Eureka police sought to encourage/coerce these people to congregate in the Palco Marsh, a remnant of the city’s once viable lumber industry.  A little over a year ago the city evicted the approximately 400 people living in the marsh.  Prior to the eviction the city, through its police chief, promised that all the residents of the marsh would not be made to leave until there was another place for them to legally live…  The city did not keep this promise and as a result, the individuals living in the marsh became not only homeless but place less.  Earlier this year the police floated the idea of cutting off all volunteer services to this community by severely limiting parking in the neighborhood where homeless folks congregate.  The city also asked volunteer providers to refuse to supply food and emergency shelter to anyone who had not been given police supplied vouchers.  Previously the city has outlawed people sleeping in cars and begging for food and has fenced off the sidewalks on which the displaced congregated.  The city’s transportation committee did not agree with the parking proposal and the volunteer providers did not agree to cease providing services.

The city has now issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) asking for interested entities to propose means to create and operate a “day center” that would only provide a place for homeless persons to go during the day rather than being on the streets during the day.  At night, they would have to leave to sleep in the bushes, doorways, and under business eaves throughout the city. The city has made no offer to fund its proposal, has made no attempt to provide a place for the “day center” and has steadfastly refused to address the question of where the homeless might actually live.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) has been attempting to address the issue of homeless in Humboldt for the last few years.  AHHA is aware of the concerns of the business community, and others, who have experienced damage and are inconvenienced by the presence of the homeless community.  Homelessness is a significant problem throughout the nation and especially in areas where housing costs have risen beyond the means of many families and individuals whose income is not significantly above the average family income in the region.

AHHA recognizes that homelessness is a problem for the community as a whole and that Humboldt and Eureka are unwilling to devote any significant resources to the problem.  But AHHA also understands that the problem is not going to go away and that refusal to address it has led to great suffering and the waste of police and medical resources and to economic and social disquiet among the business community and the population as a whole.  We also recognize that creation of an unfunded “day center”, will have no positive impact on the situation.  Indeed it will almost certainly lead to costly litigation, both civil and criminal, and further community disruption.

AHHA, therefore, requests that Eureka, in cooperation with Humboldt, withdraw its request for a proposal for a “day center” and instead ask that they, in cooperation with the various concerned volunteer, business and other government entities, come forth with a proposal that will allow a meaningful solution to the problem.

As communities around the country grapple with homelessness, numerous models are developing which could be adapted to and adopted by Humboldt.  AHHA suggests that initially Humboldt and Eureka provide resources to assist the homeless community and concerned citizens to establish refuges for residents who happen to be houseless.  Initially, these refugees might begin as camps with centralized feeding, sanitary and socializing facilities.  These camps, which would not need to be in immediate proximity to residential neighborhoods but would need to provide access to social services, could start out composed of temporary shelters.  They would be as self-governing and self-policing as possible.  The initial focus of the refugees would be the implementation of a strategy of “safe, warm and dry” first and then would begin to try to develop enduring solutions.  One of the models is a transitioning of shelter housing into very low cost “tiny house” communities.  These communities would presage enabling those folks who can live independently to do so.  Many of the homeless will almost certainly require ongoing social services to deal with their physical and psychological situations.  Ultimately these steps will lead to happier, more wholesome, cheaper and far more humane situations than the current strategy of trying to drive the homeless community away.

AHHA asks Humboldt and Eureka to issue a new RFP calling for the creation of refugee communities in appropriate locations in the county.  We stand ready to assist and take responsibility for and, in conjunction with others acting in good faith, to offer leadership in this effort.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Board of Directors



Contact:  Edie Jessup, AHHA Board Secretary

1981 Peninsula Drive, Manila, Ca 95521



Roy Dahlberg, AHHA Board

2585 Patrick’s Pt. Dr., Trinidad CA 95570

(707) 677-0377, (916) 747-1944



Bergel: “I’m so proud, so proud of Eureka”

Et tu Bergel?


Witnessing last night’s Eureka City Council meeting proved to us that Eureka’s dysfunction and denial has become complete and total.

Linda Aktins, the council person who has served the longest and has the most experience was completely out maneuvered by staff and the City Manager last night. She got little or no support from Arroyo or Bergel and was full on attacked by Ciarabellini and Brady. Aktins had asked several times at the last Council Meeting to have “Shelter Crisis Declaration” put on the agenda. What actually showed up on the agenda was a report with staff recommendations, but nothing to take action on. This was clearly designed by the Manager and Staff to prevent a vote on a Shelter Crisis Declaration. So Aktins wrote up her long form resolution and attempted to make it as a motion. That’s when the knives came out. Brady and Ciarabellini were spittin’ mad.   Brady called Atkins attempt to get a vote a “bully move” and claimed that she was trying to shove it down their throats. Atkins simply made a motion to vote on a shelter crisis which was seconded by Arroyo who then sabotaged Aktins by going to the incompetent City Attorney Day-Wilson to ask if it could be voted on. Day-Wilsons authoritative answer was “I don’t believe so”. Aktins objected and Brady accused her of having a fit.

Bergel: I’m so proud, so proud of Eureka and all of the progress Eureka has made on the homeless!

In a complete break with any form of reality Councilperson Bergel repeatedly said she is so proud of the City Council accomplishments. Ciarabellini joined with Brady to express their great pride in all that the City of Eureka has accomplished. Lots of patting each other on the back over all they’ve accomplished. WTF!

All the success with the homeless problem????? What alternate universe do these clowns live in? All that’s happened over the past year is “homeless musical chairs”. What accomplishments could any of them see as being positive?

After the meeting was over, the council members went home to their houses. On the other hand, the houseless folks who so bravely spoke at the meeting went back to their cold and wet tents in the bushes. What did the council accomplish last night? The only accomplishment we could see was making it painfully clear that Eureka is going to continue to kick the poorest of the poor when they’re down.

Mean while Ciarabellini and Brady will be lining up their allies to defeat Linda at the next meeting.

Oh ya, don’t forget to take The Mayor up on his offer to call him up at home and let him know what you think! He said his numbers in the book……………………

More misdirection from Police Chief Mills and Eureka seems to love it.

You got to give credit to Eureka’s Police Chief Andy Mills, he sure is a great politician!

Has Eureka fallen under his spell?

Buried in his latest blog screed are two important items you might miss wading through all the propaganda BS in that “weary” post.

First thing we notice was how Mills is conflating transient with homeless. He reports out crime stats among the homeless and transient populations as if they were one in the same. In fact the chronic homeless in Humboldt are the most likely victims of the Transient criminals.

He claims Seventy-two percent of the EPD’s arrests for “serious violent crimes” were committed by the transient population. Then Mills asserts nearly 90 percent of robbery arrests were committed against transient people.

There is certainly cross over between these two populations but they really are not the same. Many of Humboldt Counties’ homeless have lived here their whole life. The transient population is the very visible one on the rise, as they arrive here from all of the country. Many are attracted here by the legends they heard about our county. ie. Abundant drugs and all the weed you can “smoke, steal & deal”; plus little or no law enforcement!

Mills goes on to brag about his recently announced plan to “condense” Eureka’s homeless population into the Palco Marsh, saying “By “condensing” the population into a fairly large but controllable area it allows the police to treat it as a ‘hot spot.’ “So to minimize and reduce the problem EPD is directing the homeless to move to an area more accessible by police, fire and medics. This area is near the poll shed area along the bay. Many have cooperated but those who refuse will be cited and then arrested. Our analysis showed that people living there want isolation, concealment and freedom from theft and the police. The location was attractive because this area provided all of these traits. We are also strictly enforcing the law elsewhere in the city to prevent displacement.”

As you can see Chief Mills fails to understand he has misidentified his target; transients. Many of them stay in one of wide selection of slum lord “flop houses” and motels in Eureka. That’s their base of operations. Then they go out from there and burgle, shoplift and rob. This transient population generally has a very different makeup than the chronically homeless.

Mills goes on to claim “By condensing the population into a fairly large but controllable area it allows the police to treat it as a “hot spot.” Some research would suggest that as little as 20 minutes of treatment a few times a day will help to control and reduce crime and criminal opportunity in hot spots. EPD officers have been directed to as often as possible patrol the area where people camp and arrest those committing crimes. The outlying areas where people are camping illegally will receive maximum enforcement by officers specifically assigned to carry out this effort. Now the big trick…do this compassionately. After all, weary not in doing good.” This is a bastardized version what many common sense advocates have been calling for the last couple of decades. Designated camping areas with dumpsters, porta-potties, fire pits and water. Mills has to use the unfortunate military sounding “Hot Spot” (zone), but regular foot patrols though the camp is essential.

We think that it’s a good start to have identified a designated camping area. Obviously, the area will need some infrastructure in order to keep the area manage-ably clean, while providing some dignity for the campers. However, Mills is purposely misidentifying all people who live a “transient” lifestyle with the chronically homeless. This mis-identification is a way of demonizing the most vulnerable population in Eureka. For example, a 22 year old meth addict riding his bike through town and stealing from cars is arrested by EPD. When asked his address, he replies “I don’t have one”. The 22 year old is being honest, because he lives in a different hotel room most nights of the week, then stays with friends when he has drugs or is low on cash. The officer marks this person as “transient”. This bike riding “one person crime” spree isn’t chronically homeless, but Mills wants you to think that person is the same as someone who has been picking up cans and living in Cooper’s Gulch for the last 10 years. There’s a big difference between these populations, but in order to justify his war on poverty Mills is purposely misstating the facts about the homeless and transient populations of Eureka.

The Tale of Two Captains

two captains

Watson & Stephens

Yesterday, the North Coast Journal’s Linda Stansberry covered the “coffee with the Captains” meet and greet at Velluntini’s Bakery in Henderson Center. What an excellent way for the Eureka Police Department to reach out to community members, and to hear their concerns.

What was striking about Stansberry’s coverage was how intelligent and forward thinking Captain Watson came across.   On the flip side, Captain Stephens almost seemed like incompetent manager who hides in the corner. In fact, the only mention of him came as the caption under a photo: “Capt. Brian Stevens of the Eureka Police Department takes notes.”

Captain Watson, however, came across as engaging and truly committed to working with the community to solve “community” problems. When addressing a local business owner complaining about the high and mentally ill people who disrupt his business in Old Town, Captain Watson seemed to be not only understanding of the issues, but he seemed to be actually looking toward real world solutions. He addressed the business owners concerns, and then went right into addressing an Henderson Center employees questions. From the NCJ:

“Unfortunately, you can’t arrest your way out of these problems,” he said, adding that Proposition 47 will eventually translate into expanded services for the mentally ill and addicted, ultimately reducing crime. “Prop. 47 has allowed us to concentrate on the worst of the worst, and keep them behind bars. Burglary, for example, is an automatic felony. We’ve seen a 40 percent drop in burglaries over the last month.”

“[Proposition 47] is saving the state money, but it’s destroying our businesses,” said Mike Howard, who works near the bakery and has participated in the cleanup of several homeless camps. “I can’t walk with my kids down the boardwalk without there being old drunk dudes just laying there. We can’t spend money on attracting tourists if this is what they’re going to see when they get here.”

Referring to the issue of homelessness, Watson replied that raiding camps and moving people around just “creates displacement.”

We’ve heard many good things about Captain Watson. From personal experience, many members of our staff have found him to be the kind of cop Eureka needs. Good job on picking him Chief Mills.   Unfortunately, Captain Stephens was also chosen and his negatives far outweigh Captain Watson’s positives. In the end, we’ll call your promotions as a net negative. That being said, it’s still nice that at least one good apple was chosen.


(The Examiner holds Stephens responsible for the killing of Tommy McClain. His poor supervisory decisions and reckless behavior led to Tommy’s death)