SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — After weeks of legal battles, on Thursday almost 100 people living in a Santa Rosa homeless encampment are being told to pack up.
The land they are living on is set to be developed into housing and a public plaza.
There are about 80 people living in the camp behind the Dollar Tree store at the Roseland Village Shopping Center that need to find a new place to stay.
City officials said there are shelter beds available for everyone, but most people KPIX 5 talked to said they’re going to move to another camp.
“This is what I have left in it, my bed,” said Robin Hall as she opened her tent in the middle of the encampment. “I’m going to put it on a shopping cart, I think.”
She has lived in the space since December.
“My plans are…I don’t know right now. Probably going to go to the next encampment,” said Hall.
The camp was to be vacated by March 23 but the date was extended to April 9. Housing advocates’ attorneys then challenged the eviction and a federal judge suggested a three-week delay. The Community Development Commission then set April 18 as the final date to vacate the camp.
A Sonoma County Supervised Adult Crew, an alternative program for offenders sentenced up to 90 days in the county jail, began removing trash and debris from the camp Thursday morning.
The group of homeless people spent the morning packing up their belongings and moving them any way they can, using garbage bags or on carts.
Outreach workers are here encouraging people to move into open beds at local shelters.
“My past experience with the shelter wasn’t pleasant, so I didn’t want to try that again,” said a homeless camp resident who gave her name as Shannon, but also goes by the nickname “Blondie.”
Shannon said she’s going to move with her neighbors to another camp on the outskirts of town.
“It’s not fair, because this is a group of people that have a safe place where they feel comfortable and secure to live,” Shannon explained. “This is a good alternative, I think.”
But county officials say that is not the case.
“We really need to get people off for their safety and so we’ve got to get busy building housing,” said Margaret Van Vliet with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.
The site is going to be redeveloped into apartments and low-income housing, but it has to be cleaned up first.
City crews brought dumpsters to help haul off trash and anything left behind.
“Today one of the steps we’re taking is looking at the propane, the gas, the diesel and any other hazardous materials or hazardous waste that was collected within the encampment to ensure it’s removed, safe and out of the way before any clean-up operations take place,” said Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.
Outreach workers said they have already helped more than 30 people from this camp get into more permanent housing.