The Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Winter Shelter Program is providing respite from the harsh winter weather for many homeless families and individuals in Humboldt County.
The 2012-2013 Winter Shelter Program began Nov. 19 and runs through April 12, 2013. It provides 22 rooms for individuals and families at motels throughout the county, from Garberville to Eureka to Hoopa.
Last winter, DHHS’ Winter Shelter Program housed a total of 72 families. This year, the program has expanded to include individuals as well as families. Applicant screenings are ongoing.
The program is designed to provide short-term lodging. Those who are eligible can receive motel vouchers for up to six weeks. Its purpose is to shield people from the elements while connecting them with services to help them get back on their feet and into more stable housing.
“There’s a vital need for winter shelter to protect vulnerable, unhoused families and individuals from the wet and cold,” said DHHS Assistant Director Barbara LaHaie. LaHaie added that the Winter Shelter Program is but one link in the county’s continuum of care for homeless people.
In addition to DHHS’ Winter Shelter Program, temporary and transitional housing is available in Humboldt County through the Redwood Community Action Agency’s (RCAA) Multiple Assistance Center (MAC), the Arcata Night Shelter, the Eureka Rescue Mission and other programs. RCAA’s Youth Service Bureau’s Transitional Housing Plus program provides transitional housing to 18- to 24-year-olds who have been emancipated from the foster care or probation systems.
While DHHS’ program is currently full, interviews to determine eligibility for future openings are held on a first-come, first-served basis Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding county holidays) at DHHS’ Social Services office, located at 929 Koster St. in Eureka. Social Services staff will also be available to conduct interviews at DHHS’ Garberville Outstation at 727 Cedar St. in Garberville and at the Hoopa Outstation located at K’ima:w Medical Center, 1200 Airport Road in Hoopa.
DHHS is once again using the scattered site model it piloted in 2010. Multiple motels at venues around the county are being used to house families and individuals, instead of housing large numbers of people in a single motel. This allows people to stay in their communities, LaHaie said.
Once a week, social workers visit program participants and provide comprehensive case management services aimed at assisting them in their transition from homelessness to permanent housing.
As part of DHHS’ shelter program, families receiving CalWORKs will be assessed to see if they are eligible for the MAC. The MAC is a community-living program for families in transition that combines safe and clean temporary housing with in-depth case management and on-site direct services.
While the exact number of homeless in Humboldt County is unknown, biennial Point-in-Time counts, conducted by the Humboldt Housing and Homeless Coalition (HHHC), provide a snapshot of who experiences homelessness throughout the year.
The most recent Point-in-Time Count, which was conducted by the HHHC in 2011, found that 1,480 people were without housing in the county, including more than 400 children. The HHHC is currently seeking volunteers for its next count, scheduled for late January.
In Humboldt County, the HHHC is the lead organization for homeless issues and the federally designated continuum of care. The HHHC is a coalition of housing advocates, businesses, funders, elected officials, service and housing providers, faith-based organizations and other community stakeholders working together to identify and address local housing needs.
For more information about the HHHC, call 707-441-4613. For more information about the 2013 Point-in-Time Count, call 707-498-4761. For more information about the DHHS Winter Shelter Program, call DHHS Social Services at 707-269-4127.