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The following is a press release from the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury:

This is the fourth report from the 2018-2019 Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury (Civil Grand Jury). The report examines how law enforcement tools affect homelessness in Eureka, and is titled: Les Misérables: The Criminalization of the Homeless in the City of Eureka.

After receiving a complaint alleging homeless in Eureka were being unfairly targeted through the enforcement of specific ordinances, the Civil Grand Jury decided to investigate the effectiveness and impact of the law enforcement tools the City of Eureka put in place to address homelessness.

Beginning in 2012, the Eureka City Council (ECC) enacted and amended several ordinances identifying certain behaviors and activities that can largely be applied to the homeless population. The ordinances have had support from the business community, law enforcement, and the City Manager’s office. All the ordinances were approved unanimously by the ECC, though some are not being actively enforced.

Our investigation found use of law enforcement as a primary tool in dealing with homelessness is counterproductive. In Eureka, evacuating encampments simply dispersed problems from a contained location to a wider area of the city. Citations and arrests of homeless have not resulted in reducing the overall number of unhoused people in Eureka. Evidence indicates that criminalizing the human activities of the unhoused is far more costly than providing transitional and permanent housing and support services. Creating more debt through fines and criminal records through arrests erects steeper barriers for the homeless in finding work and qualifying for housing in an ever tightening rental market.

Throughout our investigation we discovered every agency and organization involved with homelessness is sincerely invested in the goal of ending the crisis. However, lack of communication and coordination among these entities is hindering reaching that goal. While homelessness can seem to be an insurmountable social illness, the Civil Grand Jury recommends a number of steps that could begin to move the City of Eureka in a more positive direction.

Watch this space for updates. Got a tip? Let us know at reporters@times-standard.com or at 707-441-0500.

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