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  • City of Eureka

In Partnership with The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation, The City of Eureka Awarded $1.67M

Betty Chinn was in shock on Thursday. A project that the homelessness advocate has been trying to get off the ground for half a decade was awarded $1.6 million from the state.

“My head was shaking for half an hour,” Chinn told The Times-Standard. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s a lot of money.”

Eureka was among 19 communities in California to be awarded $50 million by Gov. Gavin Newsom to house homeless individuals. The $1.6 million in funding is set to go toward purchasing new modular units, fencing and other amenities to house 50 people at a permanent supportive housing project planned on the city-owned Crowley Site on Hilfiker Lane.

“Tackling the homelessness crisis is a matter of life and death,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is taking on the unacceptable status quo with a historic response to house thousands of our most vulnerable community members at an unprecedented rate, and swiftly addressing the encampments that pose the greatest threat to health and safety.”

Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery said the city and Chinn have been partnering with Mercer Fraser Co., Kramer Properties and the county Department of Health and Human Services to move the project forward.

Mercer Fraser is donating the labor associated with hooking up the utilities for water and sewer, Slattery said. That project is just getting started.

“Once that’s done, we can go on with the rest of the project,” Slattery said.

Getting the project off the ground has been a challenge since Pacific Gas & Electric Co. first donated trailers to the Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation in 2017. Since the site is in the coastal zone, the project required amending the local coastal program, getting approval from the California Coastal Commission and holding a series of public hearings.

Backlash from neighbors resulted in appeals prolonging the process. That process ended at the end of last year when the appeal process was exhausted by opponents.

Now Chinn said she is hopeful the project might be ready to open at the end of the year.

Chinn emphasized that the modular units are not going to be used for a shelter, but as housing. The units will be for people to establish credit and rental histories that will eventually allow them to move into other housing in the community.

Case managers will be available for residents who can help them get readjusted to living in traditional housing since that sometimes proves challenging, Chinn said.

The coordination with other partners in the community has been invaluable in getting the project off the ground, both Chinn and Slattery said.

The city has other programs to supplement the services provided at the Hilfiker site, such as Project Uplift, Pathway to Payday and job skills training programs. The county also provides housing assistance.

More than a hundred people were housed by the city over the past year and a half, Slattery said. The site at Hilfiker will be another tool that the city can use to help get people without housing off the street.

“It’s something we need,” Slattery said. “And it’ll help.”

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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