The issue of homelessness in Garberville was front and center when the SoHum Locals on Patrol held their monthly open meeting on March 21. The group, still in early stages of formation, discussed outreach to local businesses and organizations that deal with Garberville’s homeless population.
Five people identify themselves as members of the Board of Directors of SoHum Locals on Patrol, though the group is still in the process of obtaining nonprofit status, president Tara Sutherland said. Five people were at the meeting in addition to three of the board members.
Before the meeting, Beth Wells and Karl Verick, a health education specialist and a public health nurse, respectively, with Humboldt County Public Health, met with the three Locals on Patrol board members present to discuss health-related issues such as the disposal of hypodermic needles. In her opening remarks during the public portion of the meeting, Sutherland said that she did not advertise the meeting much because she knew they were having a discussion with Wells and Verick that might run late.
After introductions, Sutherland displayed a contact form the group is inviting local merchants to sign. “So if something is happening at their business while we are out patrolling we have somebody to call when their store is closed, and getting their permission to enforce no loitering and trespassing on their property so it’s easier for us to call the police if we have to, and say ‘No, we have permission from the business owner to run you off,’” explained Locals on Patrol member Babette Johnson.
Sutherland announced the group had also given out No Loitering signs to local businesses.
Sutherland reported that she had attended a closed meeting of the Garberville Town Square Board of Directors. She said that Locals on Patrol were given permission to patrol the square, which is private property. Sutherland noted that the board of the Town Square might allow a public restroom at the square, and are considering fencing the square.
Mike Miller, of the Eel River Clean-up Project, was at the meetings, and Sutherland told him that the Locals on Patrol would like to ally with his group because the Locals on Patrol need more volunteers and are planning to expand their patrol area to include Redway. This led to a discussion about the closed, invitation-only Locals on Patrol Facebook page. It was suggested that more openness might generate more participation. Sutherland responded that when the Facebook page was public there were too many problems with the comments.
Four local business owners were asked the week before the meeting to comment on the Locals on Patrol group’s efforts and the issue of homelessness in town but no one wanted their comments recorded.
Locals on Patrol walk in a group in Garberville on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, beginning at 6 p.m., and on Wednesdays at 3 p.m.
The group passes out pamphlets to people they find loitering on the street. One leaflet states that resources are scarce in the Humboldt County area, and lists drug rehabilitation facilities elsewhere in the state. It also names three local campgrounds.
Another pamphlet aimed at cannabis growers asks them to accept responsibility for dealing with people who come to the area for work in the industry.
One pamphlet with suggestions for traveling trimmers warns of dangers in the marijuana industry, cautioning that “People have been beaten, raped, gone missing and even murdered.”
The same pamphlet also states, “Our community is fed up with the loitering, panhandling … We are ASKING/DEMANDING that our community be treated and shown RESPECT!”
What do Garberville’s transients think of the Locals on Patrol? A few weeks ago two people who were sitting in front of the empty bank building in Garberville commented that some of the Locals on Patrol were friendly, and picked up garbage.
“There are a couple of members, just a couple, who are very rude and they think people like us have absolutely no rights to even be in this town or live here. … They simply want us gone,” said a man who did not want to give his name.
“I had to show them my ID that said I’m from Garberville, California, and they still were telling me I don’t belong here, I don’t live here, I have to go to Eureka,” said a woman who also asked not to be named.
The SoHum Locals on Patrol meet privately two or three times a month and hold an open meeting on the third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at Amillia’s Restaurant in Garberville.