SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously approved proposals to provide housing for the 3,000 homeless people in the county, particularly the 210 people who have been camping along the Joe Rodota Trail in a county park in Santa Rosa.
The board last week declared a homeless emergency on the trail because of the health and safety of the homeless campers as winter sets in.
The timelines to effect some of the proposals in each of two “options” range between 60 and 180 days.
The board approved “Option B,” one of two similar proposals submitted by the Community Development Commission and the Department of Health Services.
Both options A and B include congregate, shared housing in 30 units in six multi-bedroom houses capable of housing 60 people. The county would acquire the houses for $5 million-$6 million within 100 days. People would have a private bedroom and share common areas.
Both options also call for leasing six to seven rental units within 100 days. A service provider would lease the property from the owner and sublease it to third parties, including people who lack or have an adverse rental history. The lease proposal would be able to serve 20 homeless people currently living on the Joe Rodota Trail between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.
The board, however, rejected “Option A” because it called for a single site in the county for an indoor and outdoor shelter that could accommodate 50-60 homeless people at a cost of $1.3 million from the county’s general fund contingencies.
Option B calls for multiple sites for indoor-outdoor shelters that include recreational vehicle hook-ups and safe parking. Each site would accommodate approximately 40 homeless people at an annual lease cost of $2 million from the general fund.
The total one-time costs for option A are $6.5 million, and total ongoing costs are $4.3 million.
The total one-time costs for option B are $7.2 million, and ongoing costs are estimated at $4.4 million.
To finance the seven recommended actions contained in either proposal, the Community Development Commission and the Department of Health Services called for adding seven full-time county staff positions and making budget increases and adjustments up to $11.69 million.
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes the Joe Rodota Trail, said the $11.69 million expenditure is “a substantial amount but a huge first step” in addressing homelessness in the county.
Supervisor James Gore said the expenditures should not address just the trail campers but the homeless along the Russian River and countywide.
“The Joe Rodota Trail is just the freight train coming down the rails,” Gore said.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane said there is a myth that homeless people are coming from outside the county. Geoffrey Ross, executive director of the Community Development Commission, said 85 percent of the homeless are from the county.
“We need to stress that,” Zane said.
Zane also said the county can’t just relocate the homeless from one place to another.
“We have to get people to where they need to be or we’ve failed,” Zane said.
Supervisor Susan Gorin also said the board has to present countywide solutions to the homelessness in and outside her Sonoma Valley district. She said there are 50-100 people living in county parks.
“Spending $11 million for 200 people on the Joe Rodota Trail doesn’t help the homeless countywide,” Gorin said.
Board Chairman David Rabbit said dozens of people also are living along the Petaluma River in his district.
“I’m proud of the investment we made today,” Rabbit said. “Every homeless person has unique needs and needs a wide array of opportunities. This is not the old shelter model of just placing cots in a shelter.”
Dozens of people spoke during the three-hour special meeting Monday, and several lauded the efforts of volunteers who have been assisting the homeless along the Joe Rodota Trail used by pedestrians and bicyclists parallel to state Highway 12.
Adrienne Lauby, president of Sonoma Applied Village Services for the homeless, said there has been an outpouring of support for people living on the trail.
“I get two calls a week, and not just from individuals but from organizations. The climate has changed since the fires and PG&E power shutoffs. There’s a sea change in public opinion.
“My satisfaction is only going to come when 2,000 people aren’t sleeping in the cold, the dark and the rain every night,” Lauby said.
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