Supes: Focus on Eureka Homelessness, Then Go Countywide

The county is supporting a plan to work with the City of Eureka on reducing homelessness but members of the Board of Supervisors want more clarity and public feedback on how it should be done in unincorporated areas.

At their Feb. 2 meeting, supervisors unanimously voted to have staff draft a resolution to support the Eureka City Council’s efforts to address homelessness. The resolution will also call for implementation of a consultant’s plan to address the issue through a “housing first” approach.

Finally, supervisors decided to have the upcoming resolution state that the county will engage in a broader discussion on homelessness issues in outlying areas.

The call for the resolution follows up on last week’s joint meeting between the board and the Eureka Council. Both governments funded a report from the Sacramento-based Focus Strategies firm, which has recommended that money and effort be focused on providing housing rather than temporary emergency shelter.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said he wants to tap his community’s feedback before advancing.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell had similar thoughts. “My concern is that we’re dealing with the county and I also have issues in Southern Humboldt for sure,” she said, adding, “I want to be careful on how we move forward.”

But Supervisor Virginia Bass, a former Eureka councilmember who’s been working with the city on homelessness issues, said the city is ready to get to work now and county support will help.

“I appreciate the [McKinleyville] Municipal Advisory Committee’s willingness to look at this sooner, but I just think that if we can look at it from the bigger vision and not get totally down into the weeds, that would be helpful for the city to be able to move forward,” she continued.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace agreed, saying that a resolution in support of Eureka’s efforts and implementing homelessness reduction strategies will only be a statement of resolve, with details to be worked out later.

But Sundberg reiterated the importance of coordinating the effort with the county’s various communities, saying homelessness issues in unincorporated areas are varied. He suggested focusing efforts on Eureka at first and then having “a broader conversation for all of Humboldt County.”

During a public comment session, doubts were expressed about the housing first approach. Bass defended it, saying that it’s worked nationwide.

Her motion to direct staff to draft the resolution was unanimously approved.

Following the supervisors meeting, the Eureka City Council endorsed the Focus Strategies plan but held off on directing its staff to prepare a joint resolution with the county.