Cooperation Humboldt’s Street Outreach Project Supports Basic Human Rights

Arcata, CA June 13, 2022 – On Thursday, June 2, Cooperation Humboldt’s Street Outreach workers were present at the Samoa Boulevard pullout encampment in Arcata (formerly Soilscape Solutions) on the day that residents were forced to leave their camp or risk arrest. Upon learning about the eviction, our team worked diligently to help people prepare for relocation. We were able to mediate conflict between homeless residents and the Arcata Police Department to ensure that no one was arrested and everyone was treated with dignity. We also managed to help several individuals salvage their belongings and move to a new location. While we are relieved that this transition was able to take place without anyone being arrested, we also recognize that day as emblematic of the constant upheaval, trauma and insecurity that our unhoused neighbors face on a daily basis. As a community we must build long-term solutions and advocate for transformative change that goes beyond simply playing musical chairs with the lives of our fellow human beings.

As a community, we need to begin working on upstream solutions instead of just continuing to push people around from one unsanctioned place to another. Ending homelessness once and for all will require a coordinated community-wide approach to total economic transformation, to build a society where everyone has their needs met without exploiting people or the environment.

The repeated pattern in our community of forcible removal of people from the areas that they choose to live has only resulted in the perpetuation of one of our region’s biggest problems. For example, while we were helping a few individuals from the Samoa Boulevard encampment re-settle in an alternate location, business owners near that new location were already phoning in complaints to the police. It is evident that there are plans in the works for the eviction of the residents in several of the other large and well-established unsanctioned camps in Arcata, which will do nothing to help the people and only exacerbate the problem. Past evictions like the one at the Palco Marsh (Devil’s Playground) with the intention to, “destroy sense of comfort and entitlement,” failed to address the problem of homelessness, and instead, contributed to the traumatization and persecution of our homeless community members. The Palco Marsh eviction was determined to be unlawful, and some victims were paid damages. Law enforcement and municipalities need to abide by the case law established in Martin v. Boise.

We urge local governments and law enforcement to:

● Cease the eviction of unsanctioned encampments unless and until there are accessible, sanctioned places for all evicted people to live;
● Cease the dispersal and arrest of homeless people living with disabling conditions such as mental illness, PTSD, and substance use disorder;
● Provide adequate waste disposal and clean toilets for all residents regardless of their socioeconomic status, dysfunction, or behaviors;
● Increase funding and decrease crippling regulations for housing, healthcare, food security, street outreach, service centers, and employment preparation programs and projects;
● Concentrate large-scale funding and program development on broad-reaching upstream economic solutions.

At Cooperation Humboldt, we recognize that access to potable water, toilets, waste disposal, food, healthcare, and shelter are all fundamental human rights – not commodities or privileges that must be earned through specific behaviors or paid for with currency. Regardless of questions of entitlement or enablement, every human being deserves to have their most basic needs met with dignity and respect – even if they are unwilling or unable to behave lawfully or engage productively with well-intentioned service providers. Mental illnesses and substance use disorders are disabling conditions resulting in impaired function – they are not behaviors. Homelessness is a symptom of our failing socioeconomic system, and while absolutely necessary, downstream projects like our Street Outreach project, which aims to address the immediate needs of homeless people are not solutions. Likewise, services like rapid re-housing – which must be offered without preconditions such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, presence of pets, or sobriety – transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing are all absolutely necessary downstream responses, not upstream solutions. Cooperation Humboldt fully supports the governments and organizations working tirelessly to provide and expand those essential services.

A housing crisis is often the result of a financial one. Current incomes are often much lower than is needed to comfortably pay average rental costs, leaving many people financially vulnerable to housing instability. Income support programs that can assist low-income people, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or unemployment compensation, help many people withstand economic crises. Often, however, people experiencing homelessness find these programs to be inaccessible and the benefits offered are often insufficient to help them achieve stability. Truly affordable housing development, rent stabilization, and programs designed to assist low-income people to increase their income are critical to supporting housing stability.

For the past year, Cooperation Humboldt’s Street Outreach team has been working closely with homeless members of our community to address their most pressing needs. The Street Outreach program is funded through an Emergency Solutions Grant for Coronavirus Response with the Department of Health & Human Services, and was formed through Cooperation Humboldt’s Community Health Worker Collaborative with the help of Eureka City Councilmember Leslie Castellano.

The Community Health Worker Collaborative builds independent Community Health Worker groups in close partnership with chronically underserved populations including people experiencing substance use disorder, people with extremely low or no incomes, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, LGBTQIA+ identifying people, and people experiencing mental illness and homelessness. The Street Outreach project is a compassion-based program that was designed under the direction of people currently or formerly experiencing homelessness; the program employs people in need to care for people in need.

Trinidad volunteers feeding the community – Mad River Union, August 6, 2020

DINNER IS SERVED Trinidad artist and flutemaker Fred Basom takes delivery of a fresh meal from Tim Haywood. Janine Volkmar | Union

Janine Volkmar

Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – “They are managing and they are proud,” Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg said, “but a little extra help would be huge.”

Peyton-Dahlberg knew that residents at mobile home parks in the Trinidad area would benefit from food deliveries and other help with errands because of her volunteer efforts during the 2016 mobile home rent control issue. Some of the residents are elderly and many are sheltering in place.

“People assume that there isn’t a need here,” she said, “but there is.” The idea and initial funding came from her and blossomed with volunteer help.

Read full article.

“Local Businesses Embrace a Worker-Owned Cooperative Model They Say Could Transform the Humboldt Economy” – Lost Coast Outpost, 7/31/2020

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2020/jul/30/shaky-economy-local-businesses-are-turning-worker/?fbclid=IwAR0H8IyYIRS4cFzi72HijF7w67pvAQiXJ20X7M699nspm4zo28RQQZO0oZk

Pippin the shop dog sits atop the meeting table inside Eureka Florist. | Photo by Ryan Burns.

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Finn Ferguson never really wanted to be a business owner.

“I was not a big fan of being the person in charge,” she told the Outpost in a phone conversation on Monday. But sometimes preparation meets opportunity in unexpected ways.

Ferguson and her friend Gwen Price recently took over Eureka Florist, a 90-year-old flower shop in Henderson Center. And while they’re facing some challenges familiar to all new business owners (plus a host of others caused by COVID-19), Ferguson and Price don’t plan to operate their shop like a traditional business — with a boss who hires employees to work for an hourly wage. Instead, they’ll run it as a worker-owned cooperative, meaning everyone involved will be a co-owner with an equal stake in the venture’s success or failure and an equal voice in its management.

Ferguson learned about this alternative business model via Cooperation Humboldt, a nonprofit that aims to make the local economy more equitable and sustainable through an array of community-focused endeavors, from “Little Free Pantries” that stock food for hungry residents to a skill-share network, workshops and study groups critiquing capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy.

Read full article.

EcoNews Feb/March 2020 – ‘Exploring Ecovillages with Cooperation Humboldt’

This article by Tamara McFarland was featured in the February/March 2020 issue of EcoNews.

Image result for ecovillageThe average size of a new house in the United States has doubled since 1960, while the average number of household members has dropped from 3.3 in 1960 to 2.6 today. As our physical footprint per-capita has risen, so too have our nation’s carbon emissions and our rates of social isolation.

One in five US residents report feeling lonely or socially isolated, and this lack of connection can have serious effects on physical health, with researchers reporting that loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The US Department of Health & Human Services reports that “As a force in shaping our health, medical care pales in comparison with the circumstances of the communities in which we live. Few aspects of community are more powerful than is the degree of connectedness and social support for individuals.”

At Cooperation Humboldt, we understand the critical importance of human connection and interdependence, both for individual quality of life, and as an important way to transition to a sustainable and regenerative way of living with one another and in harmony with the planet. One of the ways we’re currently working to build the world we need is by incubating one or more Ecovillages in Humboldt County.

An Ecovillage is a community with the goal of becoming more socially, culturally, economically, and ecologically sustainable. e idea is to create living arrangements that have a positive, regenerative impact on the natural environment through ethical sourcing of building materials, physical construction  and design, and behavior choices.

The Ecovillages we envision will foster mutual support and meet residents’ inherent needs for autonomy and connection with the natural world. They will also provide important economic benefits to residents by empowering them to build equity if desired, and to participate in a democratic process to help make decisions on the issues that affect their lives and housing.

With support from Cooperation Humboldt, we expect that each Ecovillage will be designed by a group of potential residents who would likely coalesce around some kind of theme or shared interest – permaculture, arts/culture, folks with young kids, etc. Over time, we envision creating a local network of ecovillages, each with its own theme and culture.

Each Ecovillage will include features like renewable energy, water catchment, grey water, and edible landscapes – but beyond that, each village is likely to end up looking quite different. Some could be more urban, while others may be more rural; some villages will be made up of completely separate fully featured homes, while others will include tiny homes with larger central shared facilities (or any number of other
combinations of physical features).

Because the specifics around our first project will depend so much on who is going to live there, and what their skills and passions are, we are now in a process to convene one or more groups of folks who would actually want to live at the first Ecovillage. Cooperation Humboldt will offer resources, support, and capitalization, and we require direct participation now from future residents so that we can build this first ecovillage to fit their needs and aspirations.

If you’d like to learn more or join us in this process, please visit cooperationhumboldt.org/ecovillage.

Cooperation Humboldt Plants 20 Community Trees

Little Free Pantry - COOPERATION HUMBOLDT/FACEBOOK

Cooperation Humboldt planted 20 community fruit trees in public locations throughout Eureka and Arcata as part of the organization’s food program.

“We believe that nutritious food is a fundamental human right and our food projects aim to put that belief into practice in very tangible ways,” Tamara McFarland, who coordinates the organization’s food program, said in a press release.

Looking Upriver: Anonymous Do-gooders Work to Promote Systemic Change in Humboldt 

looking_up_river.jpg

There’s an old fable about a village near a great river, a river used for drinking water, fishing and washing. One day a fisherman noticed someone floating downstream, unable to swim to safety and yelling for help. The fisherman jumped into the river and swam toward him, eventually pulling him safely to the river bank, only to see another person floating downstream, yelling for help.

After saving the second person, more people continued to float down the river. The fisherman then had the idea to set up a post nearby with a villager on duty, ready to jump in and save anyone in peril — a sort of direct service to save people from drowning. However, this didn’t stop the people from floating down river and the villagers couldn’t save everyone.

They began to wonder where all these people were coming from and decided to go upstream to find out. After hiking upriver, they found a perilous broken bridge from which people were falling into the river. The villagers decided to fix the bridge to prevent people from falling in.

They had found a solution to a persistent problem by looking at its direct cause and fixing it.

This classic parable is often used by organizations looking at prevention in the fields of healthcare, education and law enforcement. It also served as a guiding principle for the Humboldt Area Foundation’s newly established Donor Circle Fund.

[read full article]

Little Free Pantries – Beyond Charity, to Food as a Right

(via the US Solidarity Economy Network blog)

“Along the rugged coastline of far-Northern California, activists have launched a program to tangibly demonstrate their commitment to food justice and neighborhood building. This local Little Free Pantry initiative is a project of Cooperation Humboldt, a nonprofit committed to creating a solidarity economy on California’s north coast.”

[Read entire article.]