Financial difficulties, interference by Arcata officials contribute to collapse
By Charles Douglas
After nearly a decade of struggle with City of Arcata elected officials, police and bureaucrats over how best to handle issues of homelessness, the North Coast Resource Center may have reached the end of its rope.
A notice plastered on the door of the NCRC office at the Arcata Service Center informed the public that all services will be suspended as of Dec. 31.
“We are working on setting up an alternate food pantry that will serve Arcata in January,” the notice read. “We will have more information available soon. We at NCRC are making every effort to resume services as quickly as possible.”
Their Executive Director, John Shelter, did not respond to inquiries as of 11 p.m. tonight, but the Sentinel was able to reach Anne Holcomb, executive director of Food For People, which runs Humboldt County’s largest food pantry in midtown Eureka. She said FFP was informed by NCRC that they were dealing with financial difficulties and would close temporarily, for a month or more, to deal with them.
“We’re trying to develop alternative options for the people they’re serving so they don’t go without — we’re in the process right now of trying to find temporary alternative locations in Arcata,” Holcomb said in an interview this evening. “We know the cost of gas to drive from Arcata to Eureka or even bus fare can be prohibitive…we’re committed to assuring people that food pantry services continue for Arcata residents.”
She didn’t want to speculate on the reasons behind the collapse of NCRCs finances, but sympathized with the situation of humanitarian non-profit charities in general as giving has declined in an environment of economic crisis.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Holcomb said. “I’m not sure exactly what the problems are in Arcata. I think there needs to be a collaborative organization that needs to spearhead that and I gather the North Coast Resource Center just does not have the staffing resources to do that.”
NCRC evolved from the Arcata Endeavor, which has served homeless and poor people in the greater Arcata area since the 1990s with food, showers, laundry, job referral help and case management services.
The NCRCs federal grant funding dried up a few years ago due to the lack of “site control” when a newly elected Arcata City Council refused to extend their lease on the Arcata Service Center, located in between the Intermodal Transit Facility and the Arcata Ballpark in the densely populated downtown area. This led to a tense series of public hearings and lawsuits, and while the NCRC eventually got its lease extension, the damage had been done in terms of undermining its ability to operate fully staffed.
Most recently, the longstanding project of an Extreme Weather Shelter for Arcata was ended after City Hall bureaucrats threw up roadblocks against the use of area churches to house homeless people during nightime conditions with sub-freezing temperatures and/or heavy storms. Ironically, this same project has been launched in Eureka with widespread support from city officials and the business community there; similarly, the NCRC New Directions program of providing non-violent clean-up services directed towards homeless encampments has garnered Eureka’s support at the same time as Arcata has slammed the door on working with the NCRC.
All these controversies have taken their toll on NCRC volunteers, too; their Board of Directors has several long-standing vacancies, and most staff had already been laid off. Shelter himself served for several months last year as Executive Director without compensation.
Shelter sat down for an hour-long episode of Sentinel Interviews on Jan. 12 to discuss the work of the NCRC in local communities.