Police and Shelter Policies to Blame for Eureka's Winter Deaths

Police and Shelter Policies to Blame for Eureka's Winter Deaths

Category : Blog

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Since winter started, people have died in Eureka because of the cold. Well, that’s not what the coroner’s office has documented, but that is the word on the street. The temperature is what killed them, but insensitive policies might be more culpable than the winter weather. Upon walking into the Rescue Mission in Eureka, one has a breathalyzer inserted into their mouth to determine whether or not they will be allowed to have a cooked meal, bathe, and sleep inside for the night. If one doesn’t pass, then they are cast out into harsh conditions.

When alcohol is consumed and makes its way into one’s bloodstream it usually gives a sensation of warmth. This is deceptive, because alcohol causes blood to thin and increases blood flow near the skin. This means that blood which is flowing near the skin will be rapidly affected by the cold,which then inhibits one’s body from maintaining homeostasis. This causes the human body to loose its ability to sustain a living temperature, which increases one’s susceptibility to hypothermia.

This is relevant when one is denied access to shelter for having a drink and is forced, out of bodily necessity, to sleep underneath a building, in the woods, or out in a field. When one sleeps outside in Eureka they have to be concerned about the Eureka Police Department harassing them throughout the night. This tends to happen either through selective enforcement or violence.

By selective enforcement, an officer giving one a citation for illegal “camping”, which one probably can’t afford later, and which may become an active warrant. Or sometimes selective enforcement takes shape in other ways. In Eureka and Arcata people are commonly profiled for looking poor and arbitrarily searched for drugs without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Sometimes people who are profiled as being on the street are detained for no decent reason. For instance, a kid that I befriended while I was living at the Arcata Night Shelter showed me a detainment certificate one morning that he was given two days prior. When I asked him why he was detained, he told me that he didn’t know. Apparently, when he was walking down the street in Arcata, minding his business, a cop car rolled up, put him in handcuffs, and forced him into the back of the car. He was never told specifically why he was detained, the most that was told to him was that he looked like he was about to do something suspicious.

By violence, having your tent, tarps, or temporary shelter intruded upon, ransacked, and destroyed. Your belongings will be rendered unsalvageable and thrown into a locked dumpster. After being criminalized and dehumanized, there are few material possessions left to stay dry and warm which leaves one hoping they don’t die of hypothermia. Or sometimes violence takes shape in other ways. My friend “star gazer”, who I met during my stay at the Arcata Night Shelter, was lifted off of the sidewalk and thrown onto the concrete after she refused to communicate with cops who were asking her why she had blood on her forehead. She was unconcerned, minding her own business, and did not have any obligation to talk to the cops. They detained her and towed the car that she was living in which was parked at the end of the street. Because of this, she had nowhere to go after her car was impounded. Because she had nowhere safe to go after this happened, and because she was alone, she got taken advantage of one night and ended up getting raped. This would have never happened if her car was not impounded for no decent reason.

Houseless people continue to die and unnecessarily suffer. This is because they are denied access to shelter for drinking; because their possessions are looted and trashed; because of the callousness of John Shelter behind New Directions; because of the policies and the people at the Eureka Rescue Mission; because of the current policies, the lack of policies, and the lolly-pop lady at the Arcata Night Shelter; and because of the sick brutality of the Eureka Police Department.

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