This beautiful baby still sits in downtown Eureka at 350 E Street. It is known as the Commercial Building and has much of her architectural detail still intact.
And I, through some wonderful stroke of fortune, will now be working in this building-albeit very part time. In an office with windows. And fresh air… (I love my co-workers at the DA’s office and feel incredibly lucky to be there-but that doesn’t change the fact that my office is a windowless closet and I have to walk to the end of the hall just to see if it is raining or dry. Daylight or dark).
Our office is collaborating with a group called the Homeless Task Force (a consortium of public and private entities) and the owner of the Commercial Building is providing office space in which to work. I will be acting as coordinator for the task force.
Once upon a time, Humboldt County residents took care of their own through the Indigent Fund, but this is a different world. During the settlement period this county was extremely isolated and I think this fostered a sense of community (among the white/non-indigenous folk, at least). The county took care of its disadvantaged and helpless.
Today those same folks aren’t really viewed as “us”, as a collective part of our community. When people are asked to brainstorm the problems associated with homelessness, they talk about the fear the homeless inspire. The disruption to commerce and the messes they create. All true. But…
Isn’t the biggest problem the fact that residents of our community live without real shelter? That men and women sit on street curbs holding up cardboard signs begging for change– for food?
I am not naive enough to believe that the Homeless Task Force can end homelessness, but I have to believe it can make a difference. It has to, because no Humboldt County family should be forced to sleep under the bush at the marsh. No man should be so compromised, or hungry, that he stands on the sidewalk asking strangers for their restaurant leftovers. No woman should be forced to sell her body (the only thing of worth she feels she possesses) to get shelter for a night. Not in our community. Not anywhere.