While a recent grand jury report found that the local government isn’t doing enough to house its homeless population as more permanent housing is being built, one local nonprofit is ramping up its efforts to provide services and immediate solutions for the county’s unhoused.
“The mobile shower is really our biggest first step that will be a tangible item that people can see and really understand the benefit of the work that we’re doing for the community,” said Jenna Bader, a board member of Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, at the nonprofit’s general assembly meeting on Saturday morning.
The mobile shower unit is built and ready to be delivered, Bader said. The only hold up now is waiting on the county to release the Homeless Emergency Aid Program grant funding, after which the unit can be delivered within four days, she said.
In addition to providing about 30 people a day with 10-minute showers, AHHA is planning to turn the site of its eventual location into a pop-up care center where resources can be available at a centralized point, Bader said.
“I know that (Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction) is really interested in coming out with us,” Bader said. “Mobile medical is interested in partnering with us, too. … They’re interested in helping us with services, bringing what they do on board so that we could all just be there together providing services and resources.”
The area would be a welcoming spot where people can get some coffee and food, along with clothes, hygiene kits, and clean socks, among other things, she said.
Bader said they would like to eventually offer the services throughout the county, but they will likely start off with a pilot program in Eureka, McKinleyville or possibly Arcata.
The nonprofit is hosting a fundraiser at the Siren’s Song Tavern in Eureka on Aug. 25 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for the mobile showers.
“Instead of an entry fee, we’re asking for donated items to help with our mobile shower,” Bader said.
Along with the mobile shower unit, the nonprofit is also working on a proposal for an outdoor living center in the Valley West area of Arcata. The center would provide transitional housing for about 30 people.
“When you keep it to 30 people, you can keep the community still interacting as a community,” Bader said. “That’s a big part of it.”
The nonprofit is working out all the logistics of how the community would operate, but Bader said it was important for the rules in the community to be formed by its tenants through a democratic process with oversight from AHHA.
Many of the people who attended the meeting said there needs to be more collaboration and communication between the city and the county to tackle the problem of homelessness in the area because the services being provided right now aren’t doing enough for homeless people.
“What we need is a place for people to be during the day and a place for people to stay at night,” said Bryan Roos, a board member of AHHA. “People should have a place to leave their stuff so they don’t have to carry it around or block the sidewalk.”
A Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury report released last month found that the biggest hurdles to finding shelter for many of the unhoused is the lack of places where they can go if they have a partner, a pet or personal property that needs to be stored. The grand jury also found that there weren’t enough temporary housing options available for the homeless while more permanent housing is being built, and the homeless were instead being criminalized.
However, Bader said she is hopeful now that an increase in funding is allowing the nonprofit to get a lot of projects off the ground.
“It’s really great,” Bader said. “It’s like a lot of these little conversations that happened casually that are all kind of coming together now that we have the funding to do something.”