SoHum residents encourage action on homeless issues at Human Rights Commission meeting

Thursday night’s Human Rights Commission meeting was attended by more than a dozen community members from Southern Humboldt County and at times became somewhat discordant as community members expressed outrage over the treatment of homeless individuals.

“People are dying,” said Debra Carey, an advocate for the homeless.

She expressed frustration that little has been done by the commission in the two months since a public meeting Feb. 5 in which more than two dozen local residents aired grievances about treatment by a neighborhood watch group called Locals on Patrol.

“We went to Southern Humboldt because of the awareness of problems,” said James Glover, chairman of the commission. “We’re lay people. Some of us have degrees. Some don’t. We’re not experts. We try to do our best.”

“That’s not good enough,” one man responded who did not give his name.

Most of the Southern Humboldt residents lobbied for a shelter emergency to be declared. They asked for the commission to draft a letter to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors stating the need for such a declaration.

“We have written four letters over three years asking them to do that,” said Commissioner Byrd Lochtie.

Several of the Southern Humboldt residents cited a homeless man’s death last year who was allegedly burned.

“They used to just beat us up,” a man who identified himself as Okra P. Dingle said. “Now they light us on fire.”

Commissioner Jonnie Rash noted the situation seemed like something that needed to be better addressed by law enforcement.

“It sounds to me there are being real crimes committed by Locals on Patrol,” she said. “... And I don’t understand why no arrests have been made.”

Glover said that the commission’s work to try to get homeless issues addressed have been ineffective.

“We pushed and pushed and pushed and got nowhere on the issue of homelessness,” he said.

District 5 Commissioner Lelehnia DuBois said she wanted to find fixes before approaching the supervisors.

“I’ve been homeless so I am very empathetic to the issue,” DuBois said. “I would like to hear new creative solutions that we do take to our supervisors.”

Other business

• The commission introduced its newest member Kamilah Barajas, a 2015 Humboldt State University graduate. Glover joked that she was “unquestionably the youngest member.”

• Commissioners Larry Miller and Lance Morton were selected to be liaisons with the Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, a local group of law enforcement leaders.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.