The Humboldt Edge

Reflections on the Arcata Night Shelter

#1

The Arcata House Partnership is tackling the circumstance of homelessness in a positive, proactive way with its Arcata Night Shelter Program. It is small scale, due I assume to budget constraints, but it allows disenfranchised people to maintain their decency, personal health, nutrition and hygiene in a friendly family like setting.

There is an onsite staff of friendly but assertive “hosts,” many of whom came to the shelter with similar needs and have decided to give back by staying on and helping with the arduous daily tasks required to feed and house 20 people. Much like 20th century tradition thanks and gratitude goes out to all of the local stores and churches who donate virtually all of the food and necessities required to make it all happen.

Often there are more people waiting to be housed for any given night than can be housed and a lottery system is employed. But if one is serious about obtaining housing, they can participate in a client housing account where their money is placed in trust to only be remitted for the first month’s rent and deposits. The on-site staff case managers at the Annex will advocate to various property managers and landlords to clear up credit problems and fast-track prospective tenants into an affordable house or apartment.

Have you every borrowed money from a bank or used credit from any financial institution? Most of us have. The Arcata House is in effect a loan of “time” that is truly a necessity for certain people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves in a position from which they cannot easily extricate.

By the grace of God, some forward thinking folks in the City of Arcata have designed an exemplary model for helping those in need.

As a former republican who through a series of unfortunate events that have left me depending on the Night Shelter for a place to lay my head, I’m grateful for the humanitarians in Arcata who have come up with this streamlined and truly viable solution to the problem of homelessness.

Aaron Weimar, 31, Arcata Nigh Shelter host with one month or so of experience, graduate of Arcata High, has new job in Fieldbrook, collecting and washing eggs.

Aaron Weimar, 31, Arcata Nigh Shelter host with one month or so of experience, graduate of Arcata High, has new job in Fieldbrook, collecting and washing eggs.

#2

My name is Gregg Allen and I’m a Vietnam Veteran. I was a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps infantry. The Marine Corps infantry goes in first and we come out last. I don’t know what they told you about Vietnam, but that wasn’t a very pleasant experience

I need a place to live. I went to Arcata House Partnership (AHP) who said there’s no opening for housing.

So I found a place with two bedrooms. I had a whole social security check coming to me within a few days. I had a roommate that was going to rent one bedroom. All it would have cost me and my roommate was about $400 a piece. He works for Fed Ex, that’s a good job. He’s a driver. And with my social security we could afford it but not break ourselves. We could afford toiletries, we could afford food. All I needed was help on the deposit.

The landlord wanted $1800 bucks to move in. But if you go to a landlord, this is what I heard anyway, if you say, “This is how much I can come up with. Can I pay you a little bit off at a time?” Most of them will say, “Well, okay; he works for Fed Ex and he gets social security, so I know I’m going to get my rent. So you give me this much here to start and we’ll just work it off.”

So I asked AHP to come with me to say, ‘Well we’re trying to get him from no housing to his own housing. He’s going to pay the rent. Could you just give him a break?’ But they didn’t want to do that. At least I went and tried. I told them my side to see if maybe it would work.

I’m on the Housing Authority’s waiting list, but it’s six months to a year. They told me even though I’m a senior and a veteran and they can push me to the front of the list there’s no guarantee that it’ll be any sooner. They told me in the housing program that when they find a place on one of the lists they gave me, they’ll help me with the deposit. Then they’ll come and check the place and make sure there’s nothing broke, there’s nothing out of health code, things are up to par and I’m doing okay. That’s it. That kind of thing. They’re willing to do that.

But it’s a HUD housing I guess. The government gives them something for putting me in one of those houses. But they don’t get money from the government for me helping me pull myself up by own bootstraps and get into a place for just them going with me to talk to a landlord with me putting up my own money.

I’m four thousand and change under the poverty level. $950 a month is peanuts. I can’t afford a place by myself. I can’t. There’s no equal housing here in Arcata. I can’t afford anything. I couldn’t afford a closet with a water heater. They want so much rent and so much deposit, I can’t afford it.

Is that equal housing? I think not.

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