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Don't close the Multiple Assistance Center to homeless families

This petition had 22 supporters

Over a year ago, I launched a petition urging our leaders to not cut services to the homeless. It appears that they ignored the petition and the people who signed it.

As a result of Rob Arkley's meeting at the Wharfinger Building in September 2013, County and City of Eureka politicians have decided to close the Multiple Assistance Center and remove homeless families. Their idea is that it will reopen as a triage center for homeless adults on our streets who are suffering with mental illness and addiction. At a public meeting on February 25, 2015, Eureka Main Street confirmed that indeed, this change is happening as a result of the September 2013 meeting at the Wharfinger. 

Our leaders are accepting marching orders on how to deal with poverty from its richest citizen.

One of the basic tenets of a community’s response to homelessness is always to add to what already exists.  A community must never close down a homelessness program, even if it is in exchange for a new one.  It is difficult to put into words how dangerous this idea is for our community.

The County’s plan is to close the MAC in May, ensure that all families have been removed, and then the MAC will re-open this summer and become a rapid re-housing program for chronically homeless adults that are addicted to drugs and alcohol.  These people that are pulled off the streets and admitted into the MAC will have a 30-day timeframe before they are required to leave.  It’s important that our community understands this: we are launching a program that gives severely damaged and addicted people only 30 days to clean themselves up and find housing of their own.  Many of these folks are mentally ill, hear voices inside their heads, and are terrified of the thought of entering an unknown and unfamiliar program with only 30 days before they have to leave.  Why would they want to admit themselves into the MAC?  Why not stay on the streets if they are being set up to fail? 

Any response to homelessness begins and ends with an available stockpile of housing.  Humboldt County does not currently have such a stockpile.  The wait list for Section 8 subsidized housing is roughly two years, and Humboldt County is popular (perhaps notorious) for a severe lack of affordable housing.  If we don’t have enough housing to put extremely poor people into, this new MAC idea will fail. 

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development continues to be blamed for this change. Local politicians claim that they are merely following HUD's lead.  But the Lost Coast Outpost disproved this claim when it quoted Ed Cabrera from HUD, who admitted that rapid re-housing is a good model, but also cautioned our community: “HUD does not advocate the wholesale removal of one type of resource in a community for another,” Cabrera said. “We see that as being short-sighted and not taking into account the specific needs of communities.” 

But in fact, that is exactly what is happening in our community; we are removing one resource for another.  Short-sighted, indeed!  And embarrassing.  

Where is the housing for these families and these homeless adults? The MAC Center can fit 100 people at a time. With a 30-day deadline, that's 1,200 people a year. There is affordable housing available in this community for 1,200 people? Then why are housing wait lists so long?

The MAC is the largest family homelessness program north of San Francisco.  It took over a decade to develop the MAC program, with support from the County, City of Eureka, St. Joseph, and passionate community members.  This beloved program will now be dismantled in a mere six months.  Why is the Board of Directors at Redwood Community allowing the County to force this change?  Do they not care to defend their pioneering program for homeless families? 

Why is our community meekly accepting such a large shift in our response to homelessness?  Why are we accepting a plan that will take us backward in our progress?  What would our response be if local leaders forced the Betty Chinn Center to close down?  Would we simply accept that because the government says that there is a better way to address homelessness?  No, we would fight for the Chinn Center and any other program that was being threatened by the local government. 

And if there is a better way, then let’s add it to our current structure!  Don’t close the MAC to families. 

Wake up, Humboldt County.  It’s time for the Board of Supervisors and the Eureka City Council to hear your voices. 


Today: Alexis is counting on you

Alexis Milbank needs your help with “Supervisor Rex Bohn, Councilmember Marian Brady, Councilmember Melinda Ciarabellini, Councilmember Linda Atkins, Councilmember Kim Bergel, Councilmember Natalie Arroyo, Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, Su...: Don't close the Multiple Assistance Center to homeless families”. Join Alexis and 21 supporters today.