Eureka is in the process of replacing its camping code ("Changing Territory," Nov. 26). Under the current code camping is legal "in areas specifically designated for such use." The proposal is to designate most of Eureka from sundown to sunup, with 15 minutes to lay out and then collect your things.
Staff report says they kept the Boise court case in mind when drafting this. So it talks about involuntary camping, which happens because people have to make hard choices at times. The Boise case says if there are not sufficient shelter beds it is cruel to punish people for poverty and lack of shelter.
Now let's say Eureka completes the steps to change the code. An officer can offer one of the shelter beds reserved for police "hand offs" to one of the many people experiencing homelessness. If that person declines the offer, the officer can write a ticket for voluntary camping. Staff says it only applies if someone doesn't have a good reason. And the city has a "diversion program" that uses tickets to begin a conversation. However, even a parking ticket becomes a criminal matter if you can't pay it.
This is simply the carrot and stick approach, right? Well, when there are enough carrots, a stick is needed only for the very greedy. Until then, it is cruel to ticket people for being poor and living without traditional housing.
The proposed ordinance is too long, too confusing. The current code is titled: "Camping Permitted Only in Specifically Designated Areas." Please ask city council to tell staff, "Thanks, but no thanks; please use what you have to open a camp under the core components of Housing First, including no requirement to be in a program and with the rights/responsibilities of tenancy."
Janelle Egger, Fortuna