Woman Found Dead in Recycling was Likely Sheltering from Storm

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The Eureka Police Department has identified the woman found dead among recycling being dropped off by a Recology truck at the Samoa Resource Recovery Center last week as 57-year-old Jestine Green, a woman who local outreach workers say had been living on the streets of Eureka for at least a couple of years.

Police have deemed Green’s death “accidental” and said in a press release that there is no suspicion of foul play.

The release provided few other details about the death, which was first reported by the Times-Standard last week, but included a list of overnight shelters in the area that continually have space available.” The Journal sent a list of follow-up questions to an EPD spokesperson, who said she forwarded them to a commander, who had not responded by the time this story published.

Recology Humboldt referred questions about the discovery of Green’s body at the Samoa facility to a national spokesperson, who said only that the company is “cooperating with authorities investigating this matter.”

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Samantha Karges said an autopsy determined Green’s cause of death to be “consistent with asphyxiation due to external pressure on chest and abdomen.” She said the estimated time of death on her preliminary death certificate was entered as the time her body was found: 10:40 a.m. on Jan. 5.

While it’s unclear exactly what happened with the scant details released by police, it seems Green may have been sheltering in a commercial recycling Dumpster the night of Jan. 4 and morning of Jan. 5 and died after it was emptied into a Recology collection truck on its route in Eureka, and discovered when the truck offloaded at the Samoa facility.

The weather around that time was particularly harsh, as the first few nights of January saw temperatures dip into the 30s before a storm moved in Jan. 4, bringing wind gusts of more than 60 mph and dumping almost 2 inches of rain between Jan. 4 and Jan. 5.

The EPD press release noted the Eureka Rescue Mission and a family shelter on Third Street both “continually have space,” with an overflow space ready to open at St. Vincent de Paul’s free dining facility on Third Street whenever they reach capacity. Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery said the city changed its policy regarding use of the dining facility space several years back, switching it from an “extreme weather shelter” to be opened when temperatures dip or a storm comes in, to activating it whenever there’s a need, regardless of conditions, with the Mission serving as its intake point for clients. Slattery said the overflow space was open for much of November and December, though primarily because the Mission’s capacity was limited due to a remodeling project.

But some in the local homeless community have long refused to go to the Mission, even during extreme weather conditions, turned off by its requirement that those utilizing its services be sober and its overtly Christian philosophy that includes the offer of chapel services and Bible study. (Mission Executive Director Bryan Hall Sr. has repeatedly told the Journal in the past that religious services are optional and attendance or participation is not required to stay the night, though he was not immediately available to comment for this story.)

Nonetheless, Slattery said there would have been shelter beds open the night of Jan. 4.

“Had someone sought it out, there would have been space,” he said. “It’s just extremely unfortunate. I believe some of our staff had contact with this individual, trying to get them into services, and were unsuccessful. It’s just extremely unfortunate.”

Per EPD’s press release, shelter space is available for women and families at 107 Third St. [(707) 443-5016], for single men at the Eureka Rescue Mission, 110 Second St. [(707) 443-4551], and, when those are at capacity, at St. Vincent de Paul, 35 W. Third St., for those who check in at the 107 Third St. before 6:30 p.m.

View the full press release here.

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