SANTA ROSA (KPIX) – In the past few months, a large homeless encampment has sprung up on a bike/pedestrian trail in Santa Rosa and government’s official reaction to it has residents wondering, whose land is it, anyway?
In the Roseland area of Santa Rosa, the Joe Rodota Trail is technically the property of the Sonoma County Regional Parks System, but lately those calling the shots here are the homeless people who have taken the trail over.
“When I see what this has done to the use and enjoyment of this area, I think how far does everybody else have to be pushed with the leniency involved with treating this group?” said Lisa Landrus.
She’s part of a group of angry residents, calling themselves Citizens for Action Now. They posted a video on YouTube of a rolling bike tour of the encampment that runs for a quarter mile up the trail. In the video, they pass a man who appears to be injecting himself in full view of everyone.
“It was really shocking, so it was clear to me that after recording that I had to inform other people of what it really was like,” said group founder Craig Murphy. “Because I know a lot of people don’t know what the conditions really are here.”
Police estimate more than 100 tents in the camp but they say they can’t do anything about it because of a 2018 federal court ruling in Idaho that said homeless people cannot be evicted from public property unless there is a bed available and storage for personal belongings.
Officials have simply posted a sign advising Joe Rodota Trail users “to use an alternate route between Stony Point and South Wright Roads.”
“I’m kind of seeing it as giving in,” said Murphy, “giving up temporarily maybe until they figure out what to do.”
And the homeless seem to agree.
“It’s almost like they’re getting pointed in this direction,” said Reyvon Hill, who lives along the trail.
Hill works to keep things peaceful. But she believes the sign establishes the area as a place where the homeless can reside in lieu of local government providing enough beds for all that need one.
“We have been given the right to be here until they give us places where we can actually be and not have to get shifted every other day,” adds Hill.
The sheer number of homeless people has outpaced government’s ability to deal with it. But it is also too big a problem to ignore. Homeowners want to make sure officials understand that.
“I do see a backlash coming,” said Landrus with the citizens’ group, “and I think some of it is well deserved.”
For now, local officials say they’re complying with the law, but some believe the Idaho ruling should be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. A final decision from the nation’s highest court would establish a standard for homeless camping across the nation.