Media Coverage

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Solar panel program helps low-income families


Several of April Walton’s friends helped with the solar system installation. Pictured from left are Marlene Smith, Walton, Lynn Duggins and Elaine Benjamin. All reside in Blue Lake.
Several of April Walton’s friends helped with the solar system installation. Pictured from left are Marlene Smith, Walton, Lynn Duggins and Elaine Benjamin. All reside in Blue Lake. courtesy of April Walton
GRID Alternatives installed a 2.7 kW solar PV system on April Walton’s rooftop a few weeks back. The system is expected to save Walton a projected $30,000 over the system’s lifetime.
GRID Alternatives installed a 2.7 kW solar PV system on April Walton’s rooftop a few weeks back. The system is expected to save Walton a projected $30,000 over the system’s lifetime.heather shelton — the times-standard

April Walton of Blue Lake has long been interested in solar power, but figured she couldn’t afford to get a system in place at her home.

When Walton heard of the San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives — which has a Solar Affordable Housing Program that makes solar power accessible to low-income families and individuals — she began to see her dream come to light.

“I was on the Internet and there’s so much happening in solar. I just wanted to see what was going on right now,” said Walton, adding, “I knew I could never afford it, but I like to keep current on what’s happening, so I typed in ‘low-income solar’ and GRID Alternatives came up — and that really piqued my interest.”

According to the GRID Alternatives website — — the organization was founded during the 2001 California energy crisis by Erica Mackie and Tim Sears, two engineering professionals who were working on large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the private sector. The vision that drove them was simple.

“At GRID Alternatives, we believe that a successful transition to clean, renewable energy needs to include everyone,” said Maggie Graham, program manager for the group’s North Coast Office, which is based in Willits and serves Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt counties.

“Here on the North Coast,” Graham said, “we install solar PV (photovoltaic) systems for income-qualified families living in affordable housing zones. These systems are largely funded by the California SASH Program (Single-family Affordable Solar Homes), making the systems low-to-no cost for homeowners.”

While GRID Alternatives is based out of Oakland, it also has regional offices and affiliates serving all of California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware — and beyond.

“We are working across the United States and in Nicaragua to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities,” Graham said.

The solar systems are installed by GRID staff, along with community partners, volunteers and job trainees, who gain hands-on solar installation experience while putting the new setups in place.

“We provide multiple solar job training opportunities for community members interested in solar PV installation,” Graham said.

Walton first contacted GRID Alternatives about her interest in the program in January. After discussing her qualifications over the phone with GRID staff, she attended an application meeting, where she learned more about the program.

“We then (did) a site visit to assess the solar suitability of her home in February, recruited volunteers and installed the system a couple weeks ago,” Graham said.

The GRID Alternatives team put in a 2.7 kW solar PV system on Walton’s rooftop, Graham said. The whole process took under two days.

“This solar system will save April a projected $30,000 over the system’s lifetime,” Graham said. “This will divert over 60 tons of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent of taking 12 cars off the road for a year or planting 1,448 trees.”

GRID Alternatives does an average of one to two installations per month in Humboldt, said Graham. To date, the organization has completed 39 projects in the county. Its next local installations are set for this coming week in McKinleyville and in early June in Arcata.

Though Walton found out about GRID Alternatives via the Internet, many North Coast folks are connected with the group through the Redwood Community Action Agency, Jefferson Community Center or through local first-time homebuyer programs.

“It just knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe they were providing this for low-income families and people,” Walton said. “In this area, I think there are so many people that care about the planet and we want to do what we can.”

Community members interested in seeing if they qualify for a solar system through GRID Alternatives should email or call 866-921-4696. People interested in volunteering and learning about solar PV installation can contact Maggie Graham at, or visit the organization’s website at

Homeless housing support group arises in wake of Palco Marsh evictions




What: Homeless Community Volunteer and Coordination Group meeting

Where: Eureka City Hall Council Chambers, 531 K St.

When: Wednesday, May 25 at 10:30 a.m.


As the Eureka Police Department, city staff and others worked to clear the Palco Marsh property of campers Monday, a group of community members and homeless advocates met and formed a new homeless housing support group.

Homeless Community Volunteer and Coordination Group aims to highlight housing success stories and help people new to housing get the help, support and things they need.

“It’s getting the resources to people who were homeless who might need certain things and a helping hand,” Redwood Community Action Agency Director of Community Services and HCVCG Co-chair Lorey Keele said.

On Monday the new group got together and came up with support ideas — including welcome boxes, helping pet owners, as well as helping people keep track of their appointments, medications and other things they have to do.

“Often when people come into housing they have nothing,” Keele said.

Welcome boxes will be filled with donated items, such as sheets, blankets, pillows, kitchen items, clothing and toiletries, and given to people when they arrive in their new homes.

People with pets often have difficulty finding housing so the group hopes to help them by providing pet food and organizing veterinary appointments for shots or checkups.

HCVCG member and community volunteer Charlie Bean came up with the idea of handing out pocket calenders to people so they can keep track of all their appointments and other events.

“A lot of people are forgetful and we’re just trying to promote good habits,” he said.

He attended the Monday meeting and was happy with what he saw and the ideas he heard.

“I thought that the people that were at the meeting were very open-minded,” he said. “We’re just looking for ideas.”

Eureka Housing Projects Manager Melinda Petersen said another part of the meetings will be success stories of people who have transitioned from homelessness to having a roof over their heads.

“I don’t think people really know what’s happening behind the scene,” she said in reference to all the services available to people who get into low-income housing.

“There’s so many people saying negative things about the project, they’re not looking at the positive things,” Bean said.

Churches and service groups have been helping people new to housing by donating items and helping with their pets, Keele said.

“So we’re going back out to them with very specific needs,” she said.

The group is working on setting up a designated website and Facebook page, but in the meantime call Keele at 269-2052 for more information or to volunteer or donate. “We couldn’t do it without the community support,” Petersen said.

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.



February 13, 2016

Inside the MAC

POSTED BY   ON SAT, FEB 13, 2016 AT 10:48 AM

A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC. - LINDA STANSBERRY


  • A sign welcoming visitors to the MAC.

It’s a rainy Friday morning, but the bright yellows and oranges of the Multiple Assistance Center, tucked into the north end of Eureka next to the Pepsi distributor and Target, shine like beacons under the grey sky. Casey Crabb, deputy director of Redwood Coast Action Agency’s adult services and families in transition program, waits in the lobby. The lobby, like the rest of the interior, is painted in calm blues and greens. Behind the lobby desk is a windowed intake room, where a woman sobs as a worker hands her tissues. Residents are required to sign in and out, and their bodies are waved over with a metal detector wand when they re-enter. To protect the privacy of residents, there are no visitors allowed. The entire facility – with the exception of dormitories and bathrooms – is under video surveillance. There are few complaints, staff say. Institutional as it may be, for residents the Multiple Assistance Center is home.

Keeping things running smoothly at the MAC seems to rely as much on compassion as it does on rules. It tends to run full, Crabb says. The facility is currently able to accommodate a maximum of 40 residents and hasn’t dipped below 35 since it re-opened in July 2015. Prior to restructuring, the facility housed families, but recommendations by the consultancy group Focus Strategies led to a decision on behalf of RCAA and the county to redirect its resources into helping chronically homeless adults. There are a few stipulations: clients must be over 18, a Humboldt county resident for at least six months, homeless and willing to be housed, able to eat and bathe themselves as well as take their own medications, have no violent criminal history in the past five years and no record as sex offenders. Caseworkers will help people get government-issued identification, and county residency is often confirmed by CalFresh benefits. Clients are referred – and usually pre-screened – through Mobile Medical, Sempervirens, the Mobile Intervention and Services Team and Street Outreach Services. The wait list hovers between 50 and 80 people.

There are usually between three to four client support specialists on duty for any given shift, men and women who interact with the clients, help navigate their transition through supportive living and defuse any tension. 

For many clients, the first thing they want to do when they arrive is take a warm shower. There are ADA-accessible bathrooms on each wing, and one very cherished bathtub. The spread of skin diseases such as MRSA and scabies are a chief concern by staff, who douse their hands with Purell regularly. All of the clothes of clients coming in are immediately washed, and they are given access to the clothing closet, where they can pick out new duds. 

“So far there has been very minimal spreading,” says Crabb, who says that staff also do some rudimentary wound care for clients, who sometimes have open sores. Staff also take clients to the local beauty college for free haircuts on Fridays. 

click to enlargeInside a handicap-accessible bathroom at the MAC. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Inside a handicap-accessible bathroom at the MAC.
Crabb shows us in to one of the men’s rooms, where three single beds are set up at a spacious length apart. Belongings are piled next to the wall lockers. The room isn’t untidy, but it is redolent with a funky male smell. The rooms are searched often for contraband such as drug paraphernalia, but staff say that rather than putting residents off, a consistently-enforced system of rules helps them feel supported. Residents often come to staff with problems or when they know there is unsafe behavior.

“It’s all about the culture you create,” says Crabb. “They are adults. They want their space to be safe.”
Crabb admits that balancing personal autonomy with the structure that makes communal living possible is a “very delicate dance.” The most important element, she says, is rapport. Staff get to know the clients. Word leaks out to the streets, meaning that the clientele interested in housing know what they’re about and how they’ll be treated. 

“Gratitude is talked about on a regular basis here,” Crabb says. “It comes up a lot in our morning meeting.”
Moving from the streets to a shared space can be overwhelming for many at first. To this end there are several small, quiet rooms for people to be alone in. She adds that, although some people are simply loners, the majority of residents bond with one another through communal meals and activities. The MAC has even sparked romance, and new couples have found housing together off-site. (Condoms, available in baskets in all of the bathrooms, go quickly, Crabb says.)

click to enlargeSafe sex is encouraged at the MAC. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Safe sex is encouraged at the MAC.
Communal areas include the dining room, exercise room, outdoor smoking area and library. There is also a computer room and day room where classes like yoga are held. Although the only pets currently allowed are service animals, staff is working on a way for people to enter the MAC with their pets. There is also a garden in the back, where vegetables will soon be grown and incorporated into the kitchen. Just beyond the garden is the chain-link fence which runs adjacent to the now-defunct railroad tracks. Ironically, there were once many homeless camps along these tracks. A recent visit by a Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program crew to cut brush and clean garbage largely scattered the inhabitants. 
click to enlargeThe back garden area. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • The back garden area.

Most clients have some form of income, whether it’s Social Security, General Relief or CalFresh (formerly known as “food stamps”). Clients are expected to contribute to the food fee on a sliding scale using a donation box on the wall, and Crabb says that many conspicuously add their contribution – it’s a point of pride. Residents are also responsible for daily chores that help keep the facility clean. Cleaning the small library is a popular task. 

click to enlargeThe facility's well-loved library. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • The facility's well-loved library.

The ultimate goal of the MAC is to get clients into housing. MAC staff do not do this themselves, but rather coordinate with caseworkers and other local resources. The MAC keeps clients supported while they try to find housing, with an aspirational turnaround of 30 days. In reality, most clients transition out between 30 and 90 days. The majority go into permanent housing, according to Crabb, although some go into transitional housing (such as clean and sober houses). The only behavior that merits ejection are violence, threats, unmanageable substance abuse or “extreme” contraband such as weapons. Some clients leave of their own accord, but are eligible for re-entry after 30 days. “Wilingness and a want to be housed” are the most important criteria, according to Crabb. Although they often get calls from family members or caregivers hoping to house people, the client’s willingness is the deciding factor. So far 65 people have been successfully housed and 51 have left, either of their own accord or after expulsion.
click to enlargeClient's love contributing to their meals, says Crabb. - MAC
  • MAC
  • Client's love contributing to their meals, says Crabb.

At the end of the tour, Crabb leads us back into the intake room, now empty. Like other rooms in the building, it is dotted with inspirational messages. Outside artwork drawn by clients decorates the lobby walls.
Every Friday MAC staff meet with county representatives to discuss what is and isn’t working; around the time the program turns a year old they will discuss any changes that need to be made. Some tweaks have already been implemented, including an expanded direct referral service. Others, such as a dedicated program to improve success rates for youth age 18-21, are in the works. This age group, Crabb says, struggles to bond with the older adults in the program and also have less in the way of life skills. The “peer milieu” is very important, she says. Announcements of small successes are often met with cheering and clapping by other residents.

Crabb says that success is defined by the residents and their individual goals. A small change, such as a minor surgery that relieves chronic pain, can radically change a resident’s chance of success.

“We look at people holistically. We listen to their goals, we follow their lead,” she says. “Everybody has their own dance to do.”

As she explains this, a tall, older man waves at Crabb from the lobby. She waves back and he gestures enthusiastically towards his head, which is topped with short grey hair.

“Nice new ’do!” shouts Crabb, and the man comes shyly up to the window of the office. 

“I knew you’d want to see the haircut,” he says, before nodding politely and walking away.

“You wouldn’t have recognized him before,” Crabb says once he’s gone, explaining that when he arrived his hair was long, unkempt and curly. As she speaks, other people are beginning to filter in, rubbing their hands experimentally over their newly shorn locks. It’s Friday, haircut day, and the MAC clients are excited.

february 11, 2016news

Youth in drag get their chance to strut

click to enlargenews3-magnum.jpg

Stage presence, makeup and body technique: Your average young thespian may get quick pointers on all these for that first school play. But the guidance of seasoned drag performers can change everything, elevating a costume into a character and helping young people transform their bodies to express their truest selves. Or, it can just be a campy good time. Whatever their ambitions, young people ages 10 to 21 have been flocking to workshops hosted by the Raven Project in preparation for the region's first youth-run drag show on Feb. 19.

"They're just super excited to play with gender, to turn it on its head," says Jen Benoit, an outreach worker with the Raven Project. "They're excited, and a little nervous."

The Raven Project — an outreach program for at-risk youth — has hosted a spring event called Queer Prom for several years as part of its Queer Youth Coffeehouse program, a confidential, weekly get-together for local LGBTQ youth. This year, Benoit says, participants asked if they could do something a little different.

"A lot of the youth had talked a lot about gender and their experience with gender and gender roles," she said. "So we decided to do a drag show."

The show, titled Color Me Queer, will be drug-and-alcohol-free, and open to all ages. Like the Raven Project, it is being billed as a safe space for "queer and trans individuals." Benoit says that local performers have been very generous with their time, with veterans of the Humboldt drag scene volunteering to lead the workshops and help youth develop their costumes and routines. Humboldt Pride has donated money to support the show.

"Our goal is not to teach them how we do it, but to say, 'here are some fundamentals that you can build your craft on,'" says Josh Tillett, who is helping lead the workshops. "Drag is art. Drag is unique."

Tillett, who will emcee the event as his drag persona Fuscia Rae, has been performing for two years. He credits drag with helping him find both a confidence and community he didn't previously have. Around the same time he began to perform as Fuscia Rae he experienced some severe health problems.

"Coming into this community, I found people who were there for me on so much a different level," he says. "The community I gained was priceless. And drag came with this confidence, you can put this mask on and be somebody else. When I was Fuscia Rae, she didn't have health problems, didn't have insecurity. At this time in my life when everything was challenging and difficult, everything cost money ... I had this escape, I had this vacation I could take from my life. The things I could do in drag that I didn't think I could do as Josh, all of a sudden I could do in life. I started getting the confidence as Josh that I had as Fuscia."

Tillett says a big part of the workshop is helping young people avoid some of the "rough lessons" he and his cohort had to learn, as sophomore performers getting makeup tips from YouTube and struggling to pull thrift-store dresses over their ribcages.

While drag queens learn to contour and tailor, drag kings have another set of challenges. Improper breast binding can actually be dangerous, for example. Kara Randolph, who has been performing under the name Justin Cider for the last year, says she wishes she'd had some guidance when she first began transforming into Justin.

"There's a lot of really unsafe ways that people use to bind their chest that can cause a lot of medical issues, make it hard to breathe," she says. "Some people can use tape, which causes blisters. But they feel like it's worth it because it's so hard to live with breasts. I didn't have anyone to teach me, so I got a lot of blisters in the beginning."

Randolph says drag kings are a "rather new thing," and there is less information about how to do their hair and makeup. She had the benefit of guidance and support from her theater friends, but for young people whose family might not be supportive, things can be harder.

"You have to know where to get [clothes and makeup], have to have a safe space to watch videos. It's so hard, having to explain it to your family," says Randolph, adding that the 15 young people who showed up to the first workshop were inspiring.

"It's been so amazing; I get emotional just thinking about it," she says. "I didn't expect so many kids to be so brave. They were able to open up. I felt they had so much more insight into their gender identity than I did as a teenager. A lot of them don't want to be drag queens or kings, they want to be gender queer."

One of the workshop's attendees is local high school student Mason Trevino, 16, who identifies as genderfluid, a word used to describe people whose gender identities fluctuate. Some days Trevino feels like a girl and other days a guy.

"I came out about my gender expression when I was 14," Trevino says. "I was super surprised because everybody welcomed me with open arms. I thought I would receive a little bit of backlash, but everyone was super accepting."

Besides explaining the concept of gender fluidity and stating their preferred pronouns (Trevino prefers "they"), many people who are transitioning, genderqueer or simply enjoy dressing in drag also have to navigate educating people about the non-correlative nature of gender expression and sexual orientation.

"Who you feel like you are inside isn't the same thing as who you're attracted to sexually," explains Randolph. "Just because you feel like you're a woman and want to exude these traits doesn't mean you're gay or want to be with a man. That's a common misconception. Just like gender is on a spectrum, sexuality is on a spectrum, too."

While these weighty topics are discussed at the weekly Queer Youth Coffeehouse and during the workshops, Trevino and others say the solidarity and community they have found with other LGBTQ youth have been the most important part of the experience. Many of the kids are shy, Trevino says, and nervous about performing, but they are also excited about showing off their costumes and dance moves in front of an audience. Trevino plans to go as a "feminine drag king" with a pink, sparkly beard. The song for the performance is top secret for now. Trevino, who was also once very shy, says they have reached out to help the kids who were "closed off" at the first workshop. The staff and volunteers at the Raven Project made them feel comfortable, and soon it was like any other kids' party.

"We all ate pizza," Trevino says. "We were all having fun, like you do when you find people who are just like you."




















Join the ongoing fight against Spartina densiflora


There is an enormous problem with the invasion of non-native Spartina densiflora in our Humboldt Bay mudflats and I hope our readers inform themselves about its immediate and long-term threat. The invaluable lecture given by Craig Benson, division director and watershed program manager of the Natural Resources Services, Redwood Community Action Agency, held forth at Friends of the Dunes recently on the invasion of spartina and why the mud flats are changing, and the years of research and incredible manual labor put forth to do something about it.

Spartina is converting both mudflats and salt marshes to single-species habitat. This reduces plant and animal biodiversity so that there are fewer native plants and less forage for birds. (Spartina has been found in habitats between elevations 5.5 and 8.6, e.g. mudflats, low, middle and high marsh.)

There is hope for spartina eradication. Job opportunities are available, and thanks goes to those who have worked extremely hard and made an impact in the targeted areas. Still, there is 75 percent more to do. Continuing education will revert the Humboldt Bay to its natural state; research and physical work given by local agencies and affiliated departments will not be left by the wayside and will be valued by future generations.

Particular thanks to researchers (USFWS and HSU), planners (harbor district, coastal commission, consultants), funders (SCC, NAWCA, NFWF, USACE, BIA), implementors (RCAA, USFWS, RCD, CDC, HTCCC, CCC, municipalities and volunteers) and Craig Benson.

Contact NRS of RCAA, 707-269-2066, to find out how you can help.

Diane Mollring, Blue Lake

Return of the MAC: Officials Address New Model for Eureka Homeless Facility


Eureka City Councilmembers (from left) Natalie Arroyo, Linda Atkins, Marian Brady, Mayor Frank Jager and Melinda Ciarabellini. (Not picture but in the room: Councilmember Kim Bergel.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Eureka City Council held a special meeting to discuss recent changes at the Multiple Assistance Center (aka “the MAC”), a homeless facility run through a collaboration between the nonprofit Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA), the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the City of Eureka, which owns the building.

The Multiple Assistance Center, or “The MAC.”

Locals have been concerned about changes at the MAC since early this year, when the county and RCAA announced plans to repurpose the facility. In recent years the MAC has primarily served as a transitional housing facility for homeless families, who lived there for as long as 18 months while receiving a variety of services and looking for permanent housing.

But now the city is pursuing a new strategy to combat homelessness. Informed by a policy paper from Focus Strategies, a Sacramento-based research firm dedicated to ending homelessness, Eureka has adopted an approach known as “Housing First.” This strategy, which has been gaining traction around the country, holds that permanent, stable housing is the primary need among the homeless. Other approaches to solving homelessness try to move people through different levels of housing and treatment programs in hopes of making them “housing ready.” The Housing First approach, in contrast, assumes that people will be better off if they start from the stable base offered by permanent housing.

DHHS and (despite some internal reluctance) RCAA decided that rather than serving families, the MAC should be used as a rapid-re-housing facility serving the neediest, highest-risk chronically homeless people in the community. Over the course of several months the two agencies worked to find housing for the 18 families who’d been living in the MAC, and on July 1 the facility reopened offering services to a new population.

Rather than meeting in their usual chambers, Mayor Frank Jager and the members of the Eureka City Council gathered at one end of a long conference table in a second-floor conference room at City Hall. City and county staff filled the rest of the seats around the table and, as the clock on the wall approached 4 p.m., concerned citizens filed in and placed themselves in the metal-framed chairs lining the perimeter of the room. Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills took a seat next to DHHS Director Phil Crandall. A man and woman found seats at the back of the room. She held a notepad while he gripped a folded-up Times-Standard.

“This will be good,” the man said quietly to the woman. “Find out what’s going on.”

By the time the meeting began, more than two dozen people had arrived.

City Clerk Pam Powell took roll call and Jager called the meeting to order before handing the floor over to Barbara LaHaie, DHHS’s assistant director of programs.

The primary purpose of the MAC, she explained, is housing, not services. The idea, she said, is this: “Get ‘em in; get ‘em out.”

# # #

Late last week the Outpost sat down with three of the most important people in this new endeavor to hear details about how the first month has gone. LaHaie was joined by RCAA Community Services Director Lorey Keel and DHHS Senior Program Manager Sally Hewitt.

They described the array of daunting challenges that comes with serving this particular community, but they also said they’re confident that the new approach stands a better chance at making a dent in our region’s homelessness problem.

“From my perspective it’s going really well,” Keel said. “We have some very high-need clients in there [the MAC], and they’re doing remarkably well. Some had been without health care for a long time. Now they’re in there, getting stable and having their health care needs taken care of by Mobile Health Services of Open Door.”

Homeless people living on Eureka’s streets or in the greenbelt behind the Bayshore Mall can get referrals to the MAC through a variety of other programs. There’s the Mobile Intervention and Services Team (or MIST), a joint effort between DHHS and the Eureka Police Department, as well as the Open Door Health Clinic, RCAA’s Street Outreach Program, the dining facility at St. Vincent De Paul (aka “free meal”) and various other DHHS programs, including the in-patient mental health facility Sempervirens.

In order to be housed at the MAC each person must be at least 18, committed to getting permanent housing and willing to abide by the rules, which include no drug or alcohol possession, no pets and a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

While families were given months to get on their feet, the goal under the new model, Hewitt said, is to get each person in and out of the MAC within 30 days. So far, just over a month into the program, three people have been placed into permanent housing.

Once a client is living at the MAC, he or she meets with a case manager and a housing specialist to figure out what his or her housing needs are. A client could require permanent supportive housing, which offers long-term help and services, or just some financial help with a security deposit and maybe a couple months’ rent while looking for work.

After the intake interview, Hewitt said staff sets about helping the clients apartment-hunt. “We get out on the streets every day, pound the pavement, look for signs in windows.” The county also works with property managers and has a list of landlords to check in with. But the process is more or less the same as it is for anyone — “looking at computer every day, checking Craigslist to see what’s new. It’s just like, if you imagine a college student looking for a place to live.”

Staff tries to find people housing that meets their specific needs. Keel mentioned one man who’s hoping to find a place near the rest home where his mother lives. Two other men currently in the MAC are friends, and they’re excited about finding a place together, Keel said.

The current population of the MAC is both diverse and challenging, Hewitt explained. Some have spent time in Sempervirens suffering from serious mental illnesses but have since stabilized thanks to medication. Others are barely out of their teens. “So it’s a very mixed population, which is unusual for this type of program,” Keel said.

Somewhere between five and seven of the people now in the MAC had been living in the greenbelt often called Devil’s Playground. Others were living near the boardwalk in Old Town Eureka and a couple had been staying near the Humboldt County Library.

The transition can be a challenge.

“It’s a big change of life for them, to go from living free — as much as you’re free out there homeless — to going into a facility that has routine and you’re expected to follow it,” Hewitt said. “You share a room. You can’t smoke at night. So it’s a big change. And some people do go through the intake process and decide, ‘This isn’t gonna work for me.’”

It’s a common public perception that homelessness is a choice, but all the women in the meeting agreed that that’s very rarely true.

“When you talk to them for a while you find out that they had to leave their home when they were 9 or 10 years old because their step-parents or parents were abusing them,” Hewitt said. “They may have failed out of the foster care system. They’ve essentially been on the street since they were a child. They’ve faced multiple rejections from everywhere you can imagine. So I don’t know if you can consider that a choice.”

Keel said psychology plays a role.

“I think that people who are raised in very negative, demeaning, abusive situations will really have a hard time believing that they’re deserving of having something that’s stable and comfortable and good for them — because they’ve never had that,” she said.

# # #

The MAC is serving fewer people under the new model. While a family of six could sometimes squeeze into one bedroom, the new population is different. “What we’ve found out is the kind of clients we’re getting are very vulnerable, very high-end, very complicated,” LaHaie said. “So, many of them are going to be more successful having their own room.” Keel estimated that the MAC’s capacity under this new model is 40, far fewer than under the old model. At yesterday’s meeting LaHaie reported that 29 people are in there now.

But Eureka Community Development Director Rob Holmlund pointed out during the meeting that if the MAC succeeds in its goal of moving people in and out within 30 days, it will be able to place 400 people per year into permanent housing. Even half of that amount would represent a significant improvement over the previous model.

The biggest challenge of employing the Housing First model in Eureka will be finding enough low-income housing to serve the clients. Focus Strategies is currently studying that issue and plans to report on the city’s housing inventory at the Oct. 6 meeting of the Eureka City Council, but everyone involved seems to agree that more is needed.

The county offers programs through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that lower housing barriers in part by working with landlords to guarantee rent payments, but many landlords are understandably hesitant.

“You’re talking about housing people that have significant alcohol and substance-use problems, mental health issues … so they’re very challenging people to house,” Hewitt said. “But we’ve been really fortunate to have some landlords that are willing to take a chance with us.”

With county mental health case managers offering support to people in their new apartments and houses, the Housing First model has already proven effective in many cases.

“I didn’t think it would ever work when I started doing it, what, six years ago,” Hewitt said. “And I cannot believe the people that we have put into permanent supportive housing who are still there in their apartments and doing really well. So it does work.”

Of the 18 families living in the MAC last year, all but two (who voluntarily dropped out of the program) are now living out in the community, housed in places of their choosing around the county, Keel said. “They continue to be served there the same way they were served at the MAC — except not getting the cooking done for them. So the families are learning more about how to take care of their own needs, and they get integrated with after-care into the community through a variety of services … so that they’re not relying on us for the long term.”

The individuals in the MAC now still have a long way to go, but Keel said she’s already noticed dramatic changes in the appearance of clients after they’ve had rest, attention and a few regular meals.

“It’s just outstanding,” Keel said. “Even my staff that’s been doing this for years —”

“You should do before-and-afters,” LaHaie cut in. The women laughed, and LaHaie added, “Seriously!” 

“We should! You’re right,” Hewitt chimed in excitedly. “I mean, they’re just amazed. Every day my staff comes to me and says, ‘I can’t believe how blah-blah looks,’ you know? [Clients are kept anonymous.] They’re not pale anymore. They don’t look like they’re stressed out. They can take showers. They’re clean.”

Keel said one of RCAA’s housing coordinators also happens to be a beautician, and she’s been offering haircuts and beard trims.

“It was funny,” Keel said. “I was at a community meeting [with MAC clients and staff] a week and a half ago. … I was looking over at this one man. This guy kept on walking past the window, and finally it dawned on me — ‘That’s so and so!’ He was just sharp.”

Hewitt said it’s been good for both staff and clients to see these changes, and Keel added that such superficial improvements can have real impacts on clients’ ability to find employment and housing, “and really interact with the world on a different level. My hope is that RCAA continues to be able to serve these clients with dignity and respect. And if they feel that coming from us there, my hope is they’ll be able to take that out and feel like they’re worthy of that dignity and respect out in the community.”

While staff at RCAA and DHHS are hopeful about the program, Keel said nobody’s under the impression that the MAC is the end-all solution to homelessness in Eureka.

“It’s taking on a very specific population,” she said. True solutions will require community-wide efforts. “The thing I love about Humboldt County, that makes me feel good about working here, is the collaboration between all of the agencies and providers,” Keel said. “It really isn’t just the MAC providing services to people who are homeless. It’s really a whole continuum of care between different agencies and organizations. … And we all work together, I think, really well under the circumstances.”

# # #

At yesterday’s meeting, councilmembers and the public peppered officials with questions: How does the intake process work? Why haven’t more people been housed? Why isn’t there a central referral site?

LaHaie and Crandall said it’s still early in this pilot program, and many things will likely be figured out in due time. Crandall reiterated that the Achilles heal in the program will be lining up an array of housing to accommodate clients as they move through the MAC.

But he said staff has made progress on achieving the goals suggested by Focus Strategies. To date the county and RCAA have spent $2.6 million on this project, Crandall said, and more funding has been lined up through Measure Z sales tax revenues, Mental Health Services Act funding and various grants. LaHaie said the existing funds will go fast, and more money will be needed.

Members of the public had more questions: What about the plan for a homeless camp? What about tiny houses? How about building a shelter at the Samoa Airport? Could the City declare a housing crisis in order to push through emergency rezoning?

“Right now this is kind of where we’re at,” Crandall said. “Please be patient with us. We’re working as hard as we can to pilot a new model.”

# # #

While the MAC works on setting up that new model, it has a list of items it needs to serve clients:

  • lockers
  • new underwear
  • gently used shoes and socks
  • books
  • men’s belts
  • and RCAA is looking to hire people interested in working at the MAC

RCAA’s main office number is (707) 269-2001.


4/23/2015 Eureka eyes sites for homeless camp

By Will Houston , Eureka Times-Standard
Eureka's top cop confirmed on Wednesday that the city is vetting four locations for at least one temporary homeless campground - and that the homeless would be given more time to leave the more than 100 campsites in the greenbelt north of Bayshore Mall.
'We want to have a place for them to go," Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said.
The four locations under consideration are the Balloon Track property, the northern parking lot of Bayshore Mall near Sears, city-owned property east of the Samoa Bridge and an unspecified area next to the Humboldt Bay Fire training area on Hilfiker Lane. The consideration of the four spots is part of a four-phase operation the city has rolled out to address several aspects of homelessness including crime, housing and access to services.
Councilwoman Melinda Ciarabellini said on Wednesday that she believed the city was taking the wrong approach with the temporary campsite.
"I think it's a huge mistake. It's not going to accomplish anything. It will cost a lot of money, and it's another camp to disassemble in 90 days," she said.
Councilwoman Linda Atkins disagreed, saying the camp would give the homeless a better chance to connect to housing opportunities and other services.
"I like the process," she said. "I think it may actually work well. The proposed locations are all pretty decent locations."
A phased approach
The first phase of a four-part plan, "Operation Safe Trails" took place on April 15 when Eureka police and other law enforcement agencies swept through the so-called Devil's Playground in the greenbelt north of the Bayshore Mall, arresting nearly 30 people suspected of various offenses. The remaining people at over 100 camps in the greenbelt were told that they had two weeks to vacate, but Mills said on Wednesday that more time will be given in order for the city and its multi-agency partners to properly work out all aspects of creating the new homeless emergency shelter campground.
In the meantime, the second phase of plan, "Operation Helping Hands," is set to begin on April 30 and May 1. Between 9 a.m. and noon on those days, local service providers such as the Open Door Clinic, Eureka Rescue Mission, Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services and other partners will set up booths as part of a services fair near the greenbelt.
"What we're trying to do is make these services more accessible to the houseless," Eureka Police Capt. Steve Watson said.
Mills said that the two-day fair is a "stand down" day for police, with Watson stating that the homeless "don't have to have any fear of enforcement by the police." "We're not recording names," Watson said. Camping crackdown
Phase three of the operation is "Operation Clean Sweep," which will involve the police department increasing enforcement against illegal camping within the city while cleaning out trash and debris. The operation -planned to last between June 1 and September 30 - would also include the opening of the temporary homeless campground while clearing out the Devil's Playground.
"They don't have the option of not moving," Watson said. "We've been patient for over a year. "Actually creating a campground -or two -where 100 people could live requires intensive planning and collaboration, Mills said. Some of the structural factors the city will be considering when creating the site are fencing, lighting, portable bathrooms, insurance, having available tents or small housing units, and managing the city's liability.
Once the actual campground is established, larger issues such as governance and regulations come into play. Mills, who made a presentation on the operation to the Eureka City Council on Tuesday, said the police will not be involved in this aspect of the campground, but that other entities such as nonprofits and the Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives may play the role of helping to create a self-governing system within the campground.
"We want to try to make it as humane as possible in a difficult situation for everybody," Watson said. "... No one is under the delusion that this is a perfect answer. It's a step in the right direction. It starts with dialog, putting issues out in the spotlight."
Betty Chinn of the Betty Kwan Chinn Outreach Center in Eureka said she will be participating as a connector, providing a bridge between the residents -whom she called her friends - and the agencies that can provide services."I know most everybody out there," she said. Mills said that the city will take a phased approach with the campground. Mills said another campground could open if the turnout is high enough"When we choose a property, we get people in that direction and see how it goes and continue to expand if we need to," he said. "We're not going to open up multiple properties all at once."
"They can go to the (Eureka) Rescue Mission, they can go to the camp that will be established," Mills said. "They can decide that 'we want to go home.' Some may take advantage of the (Transportation Assistance Program) program. Maybe a few are ready for housing right now."The option not available to the homeless would be illegal camping within the city, with police stepping up enforcement.
The final phase of the plan, "Operation Final Stretch," will likely be the longest to complete, though the plan to convert the Multiple Assistance Center to a homeless triage center with 100 beds has already started. Other aspects of this phase include identifying and populating homeless housing options, managing the transition to rapid rehousing and eventually closing the temporary campground.
Staff writer Jessie Faulkner contributed to this report. Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
Reach the author at ·or follow Will on
Twitter: @Wiii_S_Houston.

Eureka homeless relocation prompts questions on the task ahead


Eureka gave homeless residents living in the greenbelt behind Bayshore Mall two weeks to relocate on Wednesday after lil raid targeting criminal suspects. The city is currently working to create a temporary, controlled camping area where the displaced individuals can live while attempting to find them transitional housing.

Shaun Walker- The Times­ Standard

Over 20 people were arrested on Wednesday after a raid by law enforcement officials at the Devil's Playground homeless encampment behind Bayshore Mall. The operation was one of many approaches the city is taking to protect the remaining homeless population while attempting to find them transitional housing.

Shaun Walker- The Times-Standard

A day after Eureka gave campers in the greenbelt behind Bayshore Mall two weeks to relocate, locals are asking whether the city's efforts will put the homeless on a road to recovery or just another campsite.

After Eureka police and other law enforcement agencies arrested more than 20 people on suspicion of various offenses during "Operation Safe Trails" in the area known as the "Devil's Playground" on Wednesday, those who remained in the over 100 makeshift campsites behind the mall were told that they had two weeks to clear out. The city is currently working to create a temporary site where uprooted individuals can stay until they are able to find morepermanent housing or be funneled into transitional housing programs. Where that transition camp will be has yet to be decided.

"We are looking at several spots and trying to finish up the details," Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said on Thursday, declining to release further details. "Nobody is going to be happy with the spot. But the current ungoverned spot isn't going to work."

First Ward Eureka City Councilwoman Marian Brady said that the city is taking a "multi­ pronged approach" to the issue, with Wednesday's operation working to root out those individuals who are "preying on other homeless" and contributing to area crime.

"The remaining 580 homeless living in greenways and gulches," Brady said. "The city has made every effort to try to figure out a way to deal with these different groups of people."

Mills said that the city has a "solid plan" that will ultimately provide supportive housing and rapid rehousing of these individuals, but said that it will need outside help.

"But that is going to come off of things like Measure Z," he said. "The county has helped create the problem and I think the county needs to help clean up the problem."

According to Brady, the rehousing effort will necessitate reorganizing existing establishments, such as the Multiple Assistance Center in Eureka, and working with social services organizations and nonprofits such as Betty Kwan Chinn Outreach.

Betty Chinn said she has been talking with Mills about the ongoing efforts, and said she plans to use her foundation's resources to help displaced homeless into transitional housing.

"I think now is the opportunity on how we can really help the homeless people find long-term housing instead of always being outside there," she said. "Now is the opportunity for them to get out. I hope all the people and service providers in the area can help them find the place to go. They cannot just leave there and have no place to go."

'Our city's biggest problem'

While some local business owners whose establishments border the greenbelt are pleased to see efforts to address both the criminal and homeless aspects of the area, they are still waiting to see whether the city's newest move will be a long-term solution or a loose bandage.

"Probably the latter," Mr. Fish Seafood owner Mark McCulloch said from his Eureka business on Thursday. "... I'm glad to see that something is being done. I don't know if it's going to help or not. There's talks about making a homeless camp someplace else in town. I don't know where that would be or who would want that in their backyard."

Alpoints Signs owner Geoff Wills came to work on Wednesday to the site of several law enforcement vehicles parked near his business. On days prior to the raid, he would arrive or leave his business discovering that some item he owned - anything from ladders to a car battery - had been stolen.Wills said he does not know whether the mandatory relocation will have any lasting effects on what he called "our city's biggest problem," but "you gotta try something."

"Are we just going to create a new Devil's Playground somewhere else? I'm not sure," he said. "I don't think anybody has the answer, That's why it's still a problem. I'm all for trying what they're doing."

"Where do they think those people are going? I bet if they went over there right and got down in that park, they'd find them somewhere," she said, adding that she and many of her neighbors now stop walking through the park.

Lessons from the South Spit

Arcata City Councilman Mark Wheetley said that during his time working for the California State Coastal Conservancy, he witnessed first-hand the grueling, multi-agency effort it took to address the hundreds of homeless campers who once inhabited the South Spit of Humboldt Bay during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"At the time there were over 300 people living out there, probably half of which were children," he said. "It was a very bad situation."

A health emergency declaration was put into effect after an outbreak of a fecal bacteria, one that could be potentially fatal if contracted by children. Crime increased and the natural habitat nearby suffered, Wheetley said.

The problems there mounted to the point where state legislation had to be drafted to create a management plan to address the issue. Even then, Wheetley said, "it was not resolved."

In order begin relocating those individuals, Wheetley said the state, county and health and human service agencies collaborated on a tiered approach lasting 30 to 45 days to remove the individuals -doing everything from creating transitional housing services to getting people new tires to be able drive out of the area.

While the Devil's Playground does not have many of the difficult procedural hurdles such as dealing with multiple property owners as had occurred in the South Spit, it still holds the large task of "settling and managing a pretty big encampment," Wheetley said.

Both Eureka and Arcata are currently working on creating more transitional housing, but Wheetley said neither city can do it on their own.

"It could be kind of creating a situation which could be very hard to manage," he said. "It's beyond the capacity of the city. This is where the nonprofits and the faith-based communities come in. The city should really be looking toward those partnerships."

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.

Reach the author at or follow Will on

Twitter: @Wiii_S_Houston.

New mental health-law enforcement team hits the streets

Eureka Police Department Homeless Liaison Pamlyn Millsap (with tennis ball), Humboldt County Mental Health Case Manager Moonie Higginson and Mental Health Clinician Kelly Johnson (kneeling) join EPD Officer Louis Altic (background) in the field as part of the new Mobile Intervention and Services Team.Photo provided by Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services
From left: Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Director Phillip Crandall, Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills and EPD Detective Neil Hubbard meet to discuss the new Mobile Intervention and Services Team.Photo provided by Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services


A new partnership between Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Eureka Police Department aims to strike a better balance between enforcement and care when it comes to the city’s severely mentally challenged homeless.

The Mobile Intervention and Services Team (MIST), which began working this week, pairs a Eureka Police Officer and a licensed DHHS clinician together to proactively engage homeless people who are suffering from severe mental illness, assess what kind of help they might need, and refer them to available services or help them find immediate assistance — should the individual choose to accept such help, according to a DHHS press release. Then the third member of the team, a DHHS mental health case manager, follows up with the individual and helps to further assess needs and provide continued care.

“It’s building on what we’re beginning to understand about the populations of homeless in the city of Eureka and we’re using the team as an on-the-ground effort to get a better idea about who these individuals are and what their needs might be,” DHHS Director Phillip Crandall said. “It’s an investigative team and the idea is to initially work with the homeless that seem to be struggling due to a mental illness and are more likely to be preyed upon by other people.”

The team, which patrols certain areas of the Eureka about 16 hours a week, is a departure from the current model of enforcement, EPD Capt. Steve Watson said.

Watson, who helps to oversee the program, said that prior to MIST, police officers typically responding to calls regarding an individual who appeared to be mentally ill or abusing substances or both were frequently put in the position of having to determine if that person would be best served by a trip to either the Humboldt County jail or Sempervirens Psychiatric Health Facility. With the new team, which combines the on-the-ground familiarity and authority of law enforcement with the mental health expertise of a DHHS clinician, the determination is more accurate and the range of possible treatments expanded, before the complaint call even comes in, Watson said.

“Those emergency options are still available, but now there are more options,” he said. “What’s going to change is the hand-off and follow-up. And that’s something where law enforcement has been weak — you have an intervention in the field that results in incarceration or at the psychiatric health facility and that’s the end. We walk away and aren’t so much involved in the process afterward — the left hand wasn’t working with the right hand so smoothly. Now that we’ll be working side by side with mental health services, the communication will be better and the effort will be more focused.”

The improvements have already begun, according to Kelly Johnson, a DHHS mental health clinician. Johnson, who started going out on patrol with EPD Officer Louis Altic on Monday, said the duo has already encountered and engaged with several people the program was created for.

“(Friday) was our fourth time out, and you know, it’s actually been pretty successful,” Johnson said. “We’ve made contact with multiple people that have been on DHHS and EPD’s radar — folks that have fallen through the cracks and haven’t been able to access services or receive follow-up services.”

Since the engagement is proactive, Johnson noted, meaning that it takes place before a complaint call is received or a crime is committed, homeless individuals can choose whether or not to accept help. She said that thus far reaction has been positive, partially because of the combination of services that the team brings.

“Most people have been pretty receptive,” Johnson said. “I have the feeling that when you’re with a law enforcement officer people are more likely to talk to you. We’re clear with people that they’re not in trouble and they’re free to go at any time, but having someone in a uniform with you allows access to people who maybe wouldn’t be as likely to respond to a mental health professional.”

For instance, Johnson pointed to a man the team was able to help on Friday — after a few days of making contact with him and building trust beforehand — by finding him temporary housing for 10 days and also be put in contact with the team’s DHHS case manager, Moonie Higginson.

“I don’t press too hard,” Johnson said. “I’m coming from a social work perspective where I believe that if I’m forcing someone to do something it won’t be successful. Right now I’m building relationships and trust, and I think that’s the best way to help.”

Temporary housing wasn’t the optimal solution for that individual — “He needs housing that’s more permanent,” she said — but it’s preferred to what might have happened otherwise — arrest, incarceration and then back on the streets. And more permanent solutions in regard to housing goes is in the future, Crandall said, along with possible expansion of the program if it’s successful.

Now that new funding has been made available through the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Heatlh Services Act, Crandall said DHHS is shooting to have the Multiple Assistance Center and an intake-assessment unit available to serve single individuals and their housing needs by summertime, but for the time being the Mobile Intervention and Services Team is a step in the right direction.

“The first step is to form the core team — the law enforcement mental health team — and to hit the streets and see what we learn based on the expanded services and support that team will offer,” Crandall said. “Then in the future we can connect that with the intake and assessment capacity at the MAC and hopefully we’ll have the ability to assess and stabilize and then connect with other providers in the community.”

Contact Aaron West at 707-441-0509.


HUD grants help homeless assistance programs


The Times-Standard

POSTED:   06/15/2014 10:04:10 AM PDT0 COMMENTS| UPDATED:   11 DAYS AGO


Eight Humboldt County homeless assistance programs have received federal funding totaling more than $647,000 to help keep people off the streets.

The funds are part of $1.56 billion in Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance grants awarded in April by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to renew funding to more than 7,100 homeless programs across the nation.

Locally, grant renewals were awarded to the Arcata House Partnership, Humboldt Bay Housing and Development Corp., Redwood Community Action Agency and the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services. Each of these entities is a member of the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition, which also received HUD funding for its Homeless Management Information System, a database used to gather local information about homelessness.

"This money will help these groups and the HHHC in general to continue to provide essential services and supports to homeless people in our community throughout the coming year," said Barbara LaHaie, DHHS assistant director of programs and co-chair of the HHHC.

The coalition is comprised of housing advocates, businesses, funders, elected officials, service and housing providers, faith-based organizations and other community stakeholders working together to identify and address local housing needs. In Humboldt County, it is the lead organization for homeless issues and the federally designated Continuum of Care.

Most of the $647,055 in local grant funding will be used for permanent supportive housing programs, which provide rental assistance and supportive services to chronically homeless people with one or more serious disabling conditions. Supportive services may include counseling, medication support, linkage to medical care, case management services, training in independent living skills, substance abuse disorder support and other services that can help a client maintain housing.

"Permanent supportive housing is designed for very vulnerable people who may be highly visible in the community and frequent utilizers of emergency services, hospitals, police and fire department interventions and psychiatric hospitals," said DHHS Senior Program Manager Sally Hewitt.

This year, Arcata House Partnership will receive $316,493 from HUD for its Apartments First! and SVK House permanent supportive housing programs. The Humboldt Bay Housing and Development Corp. will be awarded $27,721, also for permanent supportive housing.

DHHS received $44,671 for its Humboldt Housing permanent supportive housing program for chronically homeless people with serious mental illness. The department also received $45,431 for its HIV/AIDS Re-Housing Team, also known as Project HART, for chronically homeless disabled people and/or families living with HIV/AIDS.

"Stable housing is significant in contributing to positive health outcomes for individuals," said DHHS Program Services Coordinator Michael Weiss, who oversees the project. "The HUD funding that has supported Project HART for the past couple of years has been invaluable in the lives of participants. These funds have supported five individuals in establishing permanent housing, developing a positive rental history and becoming more self-sufficient through independent skills-building trainings."

This year, RCAA received $39,092 for the Youth Service Bureau Launch Pad transitional living program for homeless youth or youth fleeing from dangerous living situations. RCAA was also awarded $104,147 for the Multiple Assistance Center, a transitional housing program for families. Both of these programs are designed to move people toward self-sufficiency.

"RCAA's Youth Service Bureau joins other Continuum of Care agencies in thanking HUD for their continuing support of our programs," said Maura Eastman, RCAA's Youth Service Bureau director. "For 10 years, HUD has been a valuable partner in the efforts to end homelessness. The funding is key to the work YSB does to reduce youth homelessness, as it is to other service providers committed to serving the needs of the homeless. This is an investment in individuals and our community that is most welcome."

A total of $69,500 was also awarded this year to Humboldt County's HMIS. HUD provides funding to DHHS to administer the countywide database on behalf of the HHHC.

These annual HUD grants are awarded competitively to local programs across the country to meet the needs of their homeless clients. The grants fund a wide variety of programs, from outreach and assessment to direct housing assistance and other activities for homeless people and families.

Bike Month: Association leads the way for Humboldt cyclists


By Tim Daniels

For the Times-Standard

UPDATED:   05/17/2014 10:39:32 AM PDT


Humboldt County bicyclists have a lot to be thankful for. We live in a beautiful setting. Our back roads, though in rough shape, offer virtually traffic-free riding. But above all, there are many among us who care enough to help improve our everyday cycling experience.

Leading the way since 1982 is the Humboldt Bay Bicycle Commuters Association. Association President Rick Knapp says their goal is to improve and encourage bicycle commuting. Its first undertaking to improve bicycle commuting was getting bike racks on buses. The group has encouraged biking with "Bike to Work Day" events and celebrations for over 25 years.

From its seasoned, proactive advocacy, the association has earned the ear of local and state governments when it comes to "sharing the road" with bicyclists. It has helped with city bike master plans and successful grant applications, recommended bikeways and traffic signals for bicyclists, and partnered with the city of Eureka to increase bike parking and improve street sweeping. Every summer, the association also leads youth bicycling safety programs. Yes, Humboldt County cyclists have HBBCA to thank many times over.

Newer on the local cycling scene is Bigfoot Bicycle Club. A small group of local cyclists formed Bigfoot in 2001 with a mission for recreational cycling: to promote amateur bicycle racing and improve local trails. Bigfoot Bicycle Club jumped in to do something about the lack of fun (and legal) mountain biking trails. The only real official trail system nearby is in the Arcata Community Forest. Shortly after forming, Bigfoot Bicycle Club started working with the city of Arcata.

Bigfoot organized thousands of volunteer hours to improve old trails and build new trails in the Community Forest. The Humboldt Trails Council Volunteer Trail Stewards began hosting monthly trail-work days in 2013. Since the Trail Stewards have been involved, volunteer trail crews have grown from a dozen to as many as 50 volunteers on any given workday.

Joining the class of local bike do-gooders is the Community Bike Kitchen. Established in Eureka in June 2013, the Bike Kitchen provides "recycled" bicycles, bicycle knowledge and a welcoming learning environment. Working from a shop at the Jefferson Community Center (1000 B St. in Eureka), volunteer mechanics have helped hundreds of people of all ages find affordable, recycled bicycles. They teach all ages new skills in bike maintenance and bike safety.

The Community Bike Kitchen is the hub of Eureka's growing bike community, and has helped to foster a sense of community in West Eureka. It is run by a volunteer steering committee with fiscal sponsorship through the Redwood Community Action Agency. Roll by the bike kitchen for open hours on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m.

Freshest on the scene is the Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association. The leaders of Bigfoot Bicycle Club decided to dissolve the club and reform as the local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, which was instrumental in shaping the Paradise Royale trail construction in the BLM King Range National Conservation Area. The local chapter will host the same events that Bigfoot did. With the new partnership, the Redwood Coast chapter will give local cyclists a stronger voice in the halls of state and federal government, and strengthen IMBA's voice at the same time.

I've only touched on some of the outstanding work our community has done and is continuing to do for cyclists. I could go on and on. What it really comes to is this: Humboldt County is a great place to live and ride. Get out and do it!

Tim Daniels is a self-proclaimed bike geek residing in Humboldt County.


An unexpected gift

Clay McGlaughlin/The Times-Standard
POSTED:   02/09/2014 02:39:02 AM PST
Click photo to enlarge
At many points in life, it can feel as though our actions and decisions don't really matter. We go through our lives sometimes feeling entirely insignificant, and with so many billions of people in the world, how much of an effect can one person have, anyway?

This feeling of insignificance is deceptive, however, as we are sometimes reminded when a thoughtless word or deed causes drama in our private lives or comes back to haunt us when we least expect it. This process of reverberation can be positive as well, though, as small kindnesses or thoughtful words spread in ripples, too, subtly brightening individual lives -- and sometimes whole communities and societies.

Mathematician Edward Lorenz coined the term “the butterfly effect” to describe in the language of chaos theory how small changes in starting conditions can build over time and distance to cause massive changes in complex processes. He made the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings and eventually causing a hurricane on the other side of the world. While this sort of consequence is certainly undesirable, sometimes it helps to be reminded that each of our thoughts, words and deeds is somehow “recorded” and magnified through our impacts on other people and the world around us.

I was reminded of that recently when I got a call from Maura Eastman, director of the Youth Service Bureau at the Redwood Community Action Agency. She called me because I wrote a story in December about the National Day of Giving (”Encouraging a 'culture of philanthrophy,'” Times-Standard, Dec. 1, 2013, Page B1), and that story became part of a chain of events that culminated eventually in a $100,000 donation for the bureau. I take no credit for this, of course, as I was simply the messenger, but I am glad to have played even a small part in this heart-warming story.

”Ms. Sara Turner, longtime resident of Arcata, has always had a place in her heart for helping youth,” wrote Antoinette Clark of RCAA Media Services, in a press release about the donation. “She saw an opportunity to make a difference in this community by making a donation to support services for youth in need. After reading about the 'National Day of Giving,' and recognizing the importance of giving locally, she made the decision to donate $100,000 from the James D. and Sara M. Turner Trust to Redwood Community Action Agency's Youth Service Bureau.”

”We were deeply touched by her generosity and sincere desire to support programs that serve youth,” said Val Martinez, executive director of RCAA. “We plan to leverage this tremendous gift to fund the development of services that assist a growing number of young adults who have aged out of the foster care system but who still have a need for direction and support.”

-- Building 'Solid Ground' --

The donation will be used as seed money for a capital campaign that aims to raise $300,000 in order to buy an apartment building in Eureka. The bureau's goal is to offer a safe housing environment for foster youth who have turned 18 but can still benefit from services designed to help them reach their full potential. The bureau plans to offer “case management, life skills training, financial literacy, nutrition and meal preparation, grocery shopping, resume building, job skill development, social interaction and medical and mental health support. The short term goals are to prevent homelessness and provide youth a helping hand. With the help and support this program will give them, the long term goal is to assist the youth in becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of the community,” according to the release.

”The name of the campaign is 'Solid Ground,' (because) that's what we're trying to establish: solid ground for these youth so that they're on a firm footing and they can take off and fly any place they want,” said Eastman in a recent interview. “For a long time, we have observed -- 'we' being people in the business of providing services to youth -- that youth coming out of foster care, or terming out of foster care at the age of 18, had a lower than usual success rate in achieving their independence. 

”What has happened to them in the past is that there was an increased incidence of early pregnancy, more drug use, difficulty in getting a job or holding it, and difficulty in forming lasting relationships with other adults -- there are a number of different problems that seem to crop up on a regular basis. The incidence of homelessness among former foster youth is higher than the general population. All of the problems that any of us might have experienced are compounded,” she said.

”Since that's been the case for many years, there has been a push to get legislation through that would allow us to provide service to people after the age of 18. The feeling is that you have people who have gone through the foster care system, they hit 18 and they're kind of summarily -- 'emancipated' is a good word, I guess -- without necessarily all of the preparation that they need. So this would allow us then to continue the services that are provided.”

-- State assistance --

California Assembly Bill 12 was signed into law in 2010 and took effect on Jan. 1, 2012, allowing the state to extend assistance to foster youth up to age 20 -- and possibly to 21, depending on funding appropriations later this year. While the state money helps cover “living expenses,” it does not provide funding for purchasing or maintaining housing, a gap the bureau is trying to address.

”What the program does is provide them with a safe housing environment -- whether it's in a congregate site like an apartment house, or in a scattered site like an apartment individually someplace -- and case management services,” said Eastman. “Case management is designed to basically fill in the gaps for them. Each youth identifies what it is they need and what they feel their goals are, and then our job is to help them achieve those goals. So for some people it might be to get a high school diploma or go to college. For some people it may be, 'I want to get a job' -- it depends entirely on the person and what their needs are,” she said.

”There's an awful lot of emphasis on financial literacy -- because it really helps to be able to earn money and hang on to it to be independent -- and also on education. ... There may be a need for some youth to have more support and case management, more time initially, but then as they become more mature and comfortable and more knowledgeable, our role will diminish. The objective, of course, is not to be needed anymore. So our goal is to start with the youth and do what they need to have done, and as they grow, our role diminishes and eventually they no longer need us and they're out on their own and independent and able to have the best possible life. That's what we're shooting for.”

Eastman stressed that the program is “totally voluntary” on the part of the youth. “They can choose to leave the system and be out on their own ... and then, if they find they need more support, they can come back, which is really nice. I'm never in favor of an all-or-nothing approach to things, because we very rarely seem to manage that. Very few of us manage to accomplish whatever goals we set for ourselves without ever a bump in the road,” she said.

Turner, a retired social worker and former teacher at Humboldt State University, said in an interview that at first she wanted to remain anonymous, “but then I got to thinking and talking to Val and Antoinette about if it would help if I were identified ... I am hesitant about seeing my name in the paper, but I talked to a friend whose advice I treasure ... and she said, 'Go ahead. Maybe it will mean that somebody sees your name and says, 'Well, if she can do this, I can do something, too.' So we're hoping that happens.”

She emphasized that she's “not a super rich woman, particularly, but I had a good year last year. ... We were both children of the depression, my husband and I, and so we always saved money. He managed our money and made investments for us ... so that's the way I happened to have enough money to make this donation.

”The way I look at this project is this: Whatever has caused the fact that children sometimes grow up in foster care, the reality is that it's really hard to make that transition from being a young adult to being a self-supporting, happy, well-adjusted adult. I'm not sure any of us ever really totally achieve that, but nevertheless, it's not easy and you need help. And if you don't have a family to back you up or support services from some source, you may not make it. We want to help everybody make it, or at least as many as possible.”

-- 'Day of Giving' --

Turner was already in talks with RCAA about making a donation when she saw the Day of Giving article, and said it was “just what I needed to hear. ... I even made a trip to Eureka to hand-deliver my check, because I wanted it to be on that day,” she said.

The Solid Ground campaign will kick off in earnest later this year with what Eastman describes as an “all of the above” fundraising approach. “It could be anything, and any size donation, because the goal is to raise a total of $300,000, so we're a third of the way there. But we have this other part to do yet, and it's going to take the cooperation of a lot of folks and the generosity of a lot of people.”

Zuretti Goosby, chairman of the board at RCAA, said, “Humboldt County is known for its generosity, for supporting community activities. So many local agencies benefit from the generosity of folks in our community, and it was just our pleasure and surprise to learn that Sara Turner wanted to help support our youth programs, which always struggle to reach as many children out there as possible. Her contribution will enable us to fill a long-needed gap in services for youth transitioning out of foster care into independent living.”

For her part, Turner said, “Growing up is difficult for many, if not most, young people -- whether they have two parents, or come from a single-parent family, whether they are poor or affluent. What it takes to grow the belief 'I'm okay' is not readily definable, but a secure, safe and affordable place to live is a first step. I really believe it takes a community to make it happen. ...

”So many people are alone in this world, so I'm hoping that if we help these young adults get a good education and jobs, learn how to make friends, maybe some of that can be avoided for them, we hope. ...

”I hope it works. I hope it makes just a dent. You can't possibly know what the outcome is gonna be, but you can try.”

To make a donation to “Solid Ground” or for more information, call Eastman at 443-8322, ext. 203, RCAA at 269-2001 or visit


Prevention is key Collaborations to keep North Coast kids smiling pretty

Tri-City Weekly

Posted:   02/26/2013 08:43:21 AM PST

Updated:   02/26/2013 08:44:11 AM PST


Although those working to ensure that dental care for low-income children in Humboldt County say the situation has improved slightly, it remains far from perfect.

It's not that families aren't interested in ensuring their children have regular dentist visits -- it's that there simply are too few dentists willing to accept DentiCal, the dental component of MediCal.

Sarah Vogel, who coordinates Redwood Community Action Agency's TOOTH program, said that just five private dentists in Humboldt County accept DentiCal patients. That reality further underlines the importance of TOOTH, an outreach and educational program teaching good dental care for preschool and elementary school-age children.

And it's not just a Humboldt County problem. California Healthline, a service of the California HealthCare Foundation, pointed to the 2010 National Survey of Children's Health that concluded California ranked the second-worst for dental care for children. Texas was the worst. Like the local situation, much of the problem is a shortage of dentists willing to accept DentiCal.

If not for Open Door Community Health Centers, Burre Dental Clinic, even more low income children would not receive preventative care and would have no or limited access to treatment. Even for those private dentists who do accept DentiCal, actually getting an appointment can take months.

”We're really living in a culture in this county of seeing a dentist when I have to, when it hurts,”

Vogel said.

Open Door Community Health Centers has three dental sites and two mobile dental clinics: Burre Dental in Eureka; Del Norte Community Health Center in Crescent City and Willow Creek Community Health Center in Willow Creek, according to Barbara Davis, Open Door Community Health Centers dental site and mobile dental administrator.

At present, the Willow Creek dental department is closed, she said, but the hope is to reopen it this summer after successfully recruiting a dentist.

DentiCal clients who are under the age of 21 are eligible for full dental services including exams, X-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, restorative work, root canals, crowns and so on, Davis said. For those over 21, DentiCal covers emergency treatment for pain and extractions only. The state program -- funded at the federal level -- also covers pregnant women's dental visits on a limited basis.

But, one entity can only do so much.

”Dental health for low income children continues to be a problem in Humboldt and Del Norte counties due to the fact that there are few providers who accept programs associated with low income such as MediCal, Healthy Families and Premier Access,” Davis said.

To address the dental needs of children, Open Door Community Health Centers runs two school-based mobile dental vans.

”We are able to provide full-scope dental services to approximately three to four dental sites a year depending on the demand and the amount of caries (cavities) we find after our exams,” she said. “We stay at a site until all dental treatment is completed. If it's something outside of the scope of practice for the dental van, we refer the child back to the clinic or advise the parent to take them to their primary dental provider if they have them. We see all children at the schools regardless of their ability to pay.”

One of the quandaries of a shortage of dental care for low-income residents over the age of 21 is they don't have access to dental care until they are in pain, Davis said.

”Preventive and routine dental care is no longer a benefit of the MediCal program,” she said. “they only cover emergency visits for pain and extractions.”

A critical step in ensuring good dental health for children is to instill healthy cavity-preventing behaviors from a young age. Several North Coast entities work collaboratively in the Dental Advisory Group to address the issue of dental health care for everyone, but with an emphasis on children and women who are pregnant or perinatal (having recently given birth). The group includes dental advocates, private dentists, dental clinic providers, nonprofit organizations, schools and local foundations.

”We are committed to ultimately reducing the prevalence and severity of dental disease,” said Dian Pecora, director of county Public Health nursing. The Public Health Branch is among the agencies participating in the Dental Advisory Group.

As the result of a pilot program, county Public Health operates a program to introduce dental care as soon as a child's first tooth appears.

The oral health program is a part of the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) nursing program, according to Pecora. The goal, she said, is to address the oral health of children, teens and pregnant women. The program's coordinator, Colleen Ogle, also tracks related data to keep tabs on the gaps in the North Coast's oral health services. Those working in the oral health program strive to heighten community awareness about dental health issues, Pecora said.

One division of MCAH is the Child Health Disability Prevention program that works closely with the schools providing a packet of health-related information to incoming kindergarten students with basic information about vaccines, oral health and a list of MediCal and Healthy Families providers, Pecora said.

When a child enters the school system, a well child visit is required. That visit, Pecora said, is an opportunity for different entities promoting children's dental health care to make contact with a young child.

Public Health also has a Well Child Dental Visits program to introduce dental care to children from when their first tooth appears to age 2 in coordination with the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program. The program began as part of the private nonprofit Center for Oral Health pilot project in 2007 or 2008 and was initially at one WIC office.

”WIC has the location and the children,” said Colleen Ogle, the MCAH oral health program coordinator. “It's a very nice collaboration.”

Now, the Well Child Dental Visits are held at all of the WIC offices in Eureka, Fortuna and McKinleyville. Oral Health Program staff also travel with the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services' mobile engagement vehicle to the outlying areas.

One of the primary objectives is to remind parents that proper dental care should begin as soon as their children's teeth appear and get children used to the idea of someone examining their mouths. The Well Child Dental Visit also offers a fluoride treatment, but that is entirely optional depending upon the parents' preferences.

”A lot of time there's this thought that baby teeth aren't important,” Ogle said, “but they are the foundation of adult teeth...There's various goals and tips we give parents, there's a lot of 'Aha' moments.”

Staff are trained to examine the children's teeth and, while not diagnosticians, they are able to see problem areas in a child's mouth and recommend that he or she see a dentist.

Equally important is normalizing dental visits, Pecora said. If young children become accustomed to someone examining their teeth, trips to the dentist will be less frightening.

It's not uncommon, said Vogel of RCAA's “TOOTH” program, for parents who have problems with their teeth to assume it is a genetic trait and their children will face the same situation. That's simply not true, she said.

”We could be cavity free,” she said.

To that end, TOOTH educators teach preschool and elementary school-age children -- first-, third- and fifth-grade students -- how to take good care of their teeth. For low income children, whose access to dentists may be limited, learning preventive care can make the difference between healthy teeth or decay. Handing out free supplies, especially the lighted flashing toothbrushes, helps grab the children's attention. First 5 Humboldt, CalFresh, Circle of Smiles Funding Partnership and the Union Labor Health Foundation support the RCAA program.

The educators travel throughout the county, spending some 15 minutes with preschoolers and 40 minutes with the elementary school students. All receive a bag of goodies: toothbrush, dental floss and more. And lessons on the role of nutrition in maintaining one's teeth -- such as drinking water instead of soda and eating healthy food.

Oftentimes, Vogel said, when a child is experiencing pain related to their teeth they will disengage from classroom activities, smiling less, talking less. And it's common for school absences to be linked to problem teeth.

The importance of preventative care is not only to save one's teeth. Problems in the mouth can adversely affect one's overall health. Research over the last 10 to 20 years, Pecora said, underlines that oral health is critical to overall health. Cavities are deposits of bacteria and infection -- the ensuing pain can lead to not chewing well or avoiding certain foods. The chronic low-lying infection has the potential to lead to other issues.

”You're not going to be eating carrots,” Ogle said, “if your mouth is full of cavities.”

And, sometimes, the results are much more serious. Young children with severe decay may be subject to what is known in the field as hospital dentistry -- when a child is put under general anesthesia so his or her teeth may be removed or capped or undergo other invasive treatment.

Untreated dental problems can have equally devastating consequences for adults, particularly pregnant women. Vogel recounted the report of a woman whose child was stillborn. At the mother's request, an investigation was carried out to determine the cause of the child's death. The bacteria that killed the baby was linked to the bacteria in the mother's infected tooth. And, Vogel said, both children and adults have died from untreated tooth abscesses.

Despite these dangers, it appears that dental treatment and preventative care for low-income children in Humboldt County is improving. Anecdotally, Pecora said, severe dental decay seems to be decreasing in the Kindergarten-age students.

The California Center for Rural Policy's Oral Health Assessment confirms that supposition noting a 14 percent decrease in Humboldt County Kindergarten and first-grade students with untreated tooth decay between 2006-07 and 2008-09.

The American Dental Association has a few tips for maintaining good dental health among children:

* Begin cleaning your baby's mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth;

* When children's teeth begin to appear, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water;

* For children older than 2, brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste;

* When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth daily;

* Schedule the first dental visit within six months after the first tooth appears but no later than the child's first birthday;

* Stress healthy eating and limit between-meal snacks.





Natural Resources Services

Interview with Don Allen Director of Natural Resources Services

KHSU Eco-News Report July 2012 

Martin Slough enhancement project moves forward; salmon on Eureka golf course spur restoration work

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard Posted: 01/30/2012 02:18:26 AM PST


Youth Services Bureau (YSB)

Unique emergency shelter offers help for Humboldt County homeless, runaway teens

Times-Standard newspaper 11/27/2011

Community Programs

Non-profit seeks volunteers for tax season

Times-Standard newspaper 11/08/2011

Energy Services

KHSU Radio Interview with Val Martinez about the Weatherization program