About 16 people attended a meeting at the Vets Hall in Garberville on Saturday, Oct. 12, convened by local homeless advocate and bookstore owner Paul Encimer who said, “Garberville is the event, Redway is the event. We want event security.”
He cited the security during local musical events, both in town and at the shows, as more subtle than just “going around shouting at people from your car,” referring to recent events of escalated friction between different groups of people in Redway and Garberville. Though no witnesses would press charges with the sheriff’s office, KMUD news reported that a houseless person was beaten recently in Redway and was taken to the hospital. Other people had heard from tourists and travelers that have said they were yelled at by people in trucks.
This meeting was to begin talking about an active community response to ease tensions through a committee of people walking around town in two-person teams.
Attendance at the meeting included several people self-identified as currently houseless, members of the local town restroom working group, a member of a board of a local service district, entrepreneurs, and some people who identified themselves as new to the area, housed and unhoused.
One of the participants explained that there were round table meetings last year to address the issue of houseless people, travelers and migrant workers in town and several needs were
A list of proposed projects for this group to consider included trainings equivalent to nonviolence training, exploring ways to get different groups involved and reach out to merchants, working with law enforcement, and designing or choosing an identifying badge or vest for the walkers.
Encimer said the walkers could have literature for tourists and travelers, including standards of behavior for everyone.
Though the talk occasionally drifted onto related issues such as the appropriateness of a resource center, hostel, camping place, and public facilities, the group stayed resolutely on the one issue of town walkers, as yet unnamed.
The importance of the right name for such a committee was discussed. It was thought by the group that an inclusive, non-judgmental name would be best. Suggestions and their pros and cons were parsed out. It was left to individuals of the group and anyone else who attends the next meeting to bring suggestions for names and means.
Portland, OR and Santa Cruz, CA were both cited as cities that have faced issues of houseless people. In Portland facilities are provided for travelers. Santa Cruz has hospitality agents and specific guidelines like hours and places that panhandling is allowed. The Rainbow Gathering’s security was also suggested as a model.
Several people volunteered follow up by contacting these entities for information.
It was deemed by the group to be imperative to include all cultures of Southern Humboldt. One speaker said she would like to hear opposing views about the project, too, so that those concerns could be addressed. Surveying merchants and businesses was suggested.
People discussed offering invitations to civic, merchant, law enforcement and others to come to the meetings, and forming outreach teams that could speak at local civic and business meetings. The participants agreed that inclusion of merchants was crucial. Encimer said he wanted to find ways to help reduce the stresses for the businesses in town.
No law enforcement people were at the meeting but Encimer said that he had talked to Sheriff Downey about the formation of a walking group. Encimer said that he hoped the sheriff’s office would help with the formation of such a committee. An alliance with law enforcement is essential, “what they expect from us, what we expect from them, when to call them, when not to call them for pointless things, so that we have good rapport with them... We’re here for the same job, to have friendly streets,” Encimer said.
Everyone is invited to the next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 24 at the Vets Hall on Conger Street in Garberville. There will be a potluck at 5 p.m. and the meeting at 6 p.m.