Monday, October 8, 2012


SoHum is short for Southern Humboldt County.


It's the number one topic in town. Ask anyone who goes into Garberville and you hear the same thing: What is up with all of the street people?

Cory, 27, has been living on the streets for ten years. He heard about Humboldt County growing up in Santa Rosa.

Sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, Cory held a sign which read Just Hungry. Up and down Redwood Drive and on either side, indeterminate numbers of street people sitting, milling, and strolling dominated the Garberville business district view.

When asked how he would respond to the news that Ray's Food Place, a few doors up the street, has a Now Hiring sign on the door, Cory replied, "You have to be willing to clean up a little bit."

Cory indicated his lack of shoes and shirt.

When asked what would be wrong with doing that, he said, "Once you start cleaning up, you have to keep that appearance running."

Finally, when asked what would be wrong with that, Cory responded, "I don't want to change."

For Gary Futrell at The Cuttings, the prevalence of the street people in Garberville is destroying the community.

"We're overwhelmed," he said at work in his barber shop, trimming. "A lot of these people aren't looking for jobs. They're just living off the community here. You see more street people than you do local people at times."

Many of them panhandling with dogs. The impression may be likened to downtown San Francisco, or any urban area with striking economic contrast.

“It’s running tourists out of here,” said Futrell. “We’re losing the town. It’s no longer safe for women and children to walk the streets at night.”

In front of Ray’s Food Place a clean-cut homeless man, college-age, filled a pipe bowl and lit up with a joyless air. Initially defiant and suspicious, he walked off warning his fellow street person Cory, “Bacon, dude!” Not the first time someone thought I was a cop.

A week later, he said his name was Aaron, that he was from Mississippi, and that he used to work at The Blue Room.

Cody, 19, has been in SoHum for six weeks.

“I was in Colorado and I traveled to the Rainbow Gathering in Tennessee,” said Cody. “I hooked up with a group that knew something about trimming jobs.”

Not all of the street people migrating to the Gold Rush of Humboldt County marijuana trim work are as candid, but Cody plans to return to Colorado.

“A buddy of mine says he might already have a job hooked up for me,” he said. “I’m figuring I might as well go back to where friends and family are.”

Inside, atop, and around a colorfully spray-painted modified school bus, barefoot young people playing music lounged in the Ray’s Food Place parking lot with their dogs. One was from Colorado, another from North Carolina. About a third had heard of Ken Kesey.

Responding to numerous complaints, Sgt. Ken Swithenbank of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene, and the bus people moved on.

For many local residents, having to adjust to Dickensian hordes in town is not a desired change. A change that most business owners asked are as reluctant to address in print as workers migrating across the country are on clipping bud.

Local horror stories range from overexposure to general seediness, to verbal abuse, to the threat of being bitten by the dog for failure in panhandling compliance. Last week, an Arizona man flipped out in Garberville on LSD, and a resident of North Carolina shot a man north of Redway.

More commonly however, there’s just something about near-constant overripe crowds hanging around outside of businesses accosting passersby for change that becomes exceedingly tiresome.

“All the commercial marijuana growers,” Swithenbank said, “should possibly put in a town tax for us to have more enforcement on the transient trimmers.”

Copies of REDWOODLAND    
inside the store
at the book rack
in front of the video counter!

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