Eureka is about 28,000 people — smaller than my hometown — though with a disproportionate amount of social issues. This is probably due in part to the drug culture in Humboldt county. As most people know, Humboldt county is famous for growing marijuana though a lot is also grown in Trinity and Mendocino county (the three together being called “the emerald triangle”). The drug trade and the mild climate brings in lots of drifter types hoping to start growing weed or trimming it and make a fortune — like a gold rush. Also similar to the gold rush is the fact that many leave empty handed or worse. I have heard many rumors of people who have come here and worked all summer only to not get paid. What is such an employee going to say to a (probably) gun owning employer in the middle of nowhere? That’s not to say that all the marijuana grows here are illegal, many are legal and supply dispensaries, but even these are high stress operations because they get robbed — after all there is sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of product in one’s backyard.
Most of the people who are successful in it have connections, yet that’s no guarantee. I met a guy who came down from New York who invested a few months and tens of thousands of dollars in a grow and should have made about $150K, but he got screwed over and ended up on the street addicted to heroin. There are other people I’ve met who upon failing in the MJ industry faded into the homeless population. There is also a large proportion of mentally ill homeless people here, perhaps this industry draws such people. After all, the one grower I met threatened to beat my friend and I to death with a shovel. Of course there was some bad blood because the grower was his cousin who let him get screwed over, but still I get the vibe that there are a lot of anti-social people who don’t function well in society living out in the woods and growing pot and sitting on armories.
This guy wasn’t schizophrenic though, like many people I have met on the street. There seems to be a large population of schizophrenic people here, though sometimes it is hard to tell if their schizoprenia is more of a result of their meth use. Meth does cause delusions and paranoia and is a very big drug in Humboldt county. Yet there are many tweakers I have met that aren’t the stereotypical smeagol-looking guy jerking and twitching, in fact I would have never known that they do meth if they didn’t tell me. There are some people who I really like who are meth users here. Then there are the ones who talk about space ships, run and yell down the street, and the like. Not that I don’t like those ones, but they are difficult to talk to. The relationship between drugs and mental illness is complicated to say in the least.
Behind Bayshore mall, right off the 101, is a large homeless colony — probably 100-200 people live there. It’s called the Devil’s Playground.
Here is a video of a drone flyover that will give you and idea of what it looks like: http://lostcoastoutpost.com/2015/apr/21/video-drone-flyover-devils-playground-homeless-enc/
The playground is not as intimidating as it sounds though, it’s not like you are guaranteed to be raped and robbed if you go through. I’ve been through there a few times, a couple at night even, though I’m cautious and don’t go running up to peoples’ camps. Yet I’ve heard rumors of people getting beaten to death over $5 dollars and I met a guy who said he had about two thousand dollars worth of guns confiscated from him. Two of the residents I’ve met are a couple of brothers my age and younger who panhandle and shoot up heroin. I met the older one while he was panhandling one day, he pushes a cart around with his dog and asks people at supermarkets for spare change. When I came back to his camp he start melt down a glob of black tar heroin as casually as if he was putting on a pot of coffee.
He told me a story of an abuse in his childhood and how he has chronic nerve pain and does heroin for the analgesic effects rather than the high. One may think this is denial, yet plenty of people take pain killers for chronic pain and when they lose their prescriptions and/or can get heroin cheaper, they turn to that. His younger brother, just 21, as far as I know has no health problems. There seems to be a lot of younger homeless people living there. I met another who seems to just smoke weed all day.
Arcata is the much trendier hipper town, just six miles up the road. It houses Humboldt State University and all of its students. There are plenty of drifters that hang out in Arcata too, but they are more of the hippie types who sit around and smoke weed in the park. I haven’t spent much time in Arcata despite that it is the more “happening” town. I tried to stay there once and it just didn’t feel right, Eureka feels like home. As one trite local bumperstick reads, I like Eureka.
I don’t want to give the impression that Eureka is one big skid row, there are lots of “normal” people here too. There are plenty of young, hip people just like in Arcata; I see them all the time at the grocery store I work at: North Coast Cooperative. I see all the people who sport dreadlocks and eat kale. Of course I like to get out of Eureka and all it’s craziness from time to time. On the days I’ll head up to Trinidad, a nice, small coastal community up the road that has some nice beaches. There are also many nice small towns in Humboldt like McKinleyville and Honeydew. I enjoy Humboldt county though I don’t partake in the marijuana culture. Honestly Trinity county is probably more beautiful, not that Humboldt is ugly by an means, Trinity is just gorgeous; nevertheless, Humbodlt is starting to feel like home — for now anyways.