SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX) – It has been one week since Sonoma County closed down Joe Rodota Trail, the site of the largest homeless encampment in county history. At one point 250 people were thought to be living there, maybe more. One group from that encampment has reformed just a few miles away.
“We wanted to pick a spot that was the least impact to our neighbors and to the county,” says Ashley Williams. “We wanted to pick a spot where there was no suburbia, so there was no children.”
At the end of West Robles Road you will find the largest single group of people displaced from the trail. Williams does not live here, but she has effectively organized this encampment.
“These encampments are going to pop up all over the county,” Williams says. “They dispersed the trail without being able to give everyone services.”
When Joe Rodota Trail was closed, the county said services were offered to everyone forced to leave.
“We’ve offered shelter for people,” Sonoma County Public Information Officer Melissa Valle said on January 31. “Sixty people went to Los Guilicos. We have assisted nearly 50 people with housing assistance vouchers, and we have tried to connect people to shelters. But really it depends on what their needs are and what they want to do next.”
With exactly 31 people, the new camp might represent about 20 percent of those who just walked away from Joe Rodota one week ago.
“Right now, this is the only site that I know of that’s like this, where we actually have a roster of who is out here,” Williams says of the encampment on West Robles. “We’ve also got a mission statement for this camp.”
The site is right across the street from Sonoma County property, and notices have been posted declaring it an illegal encampment. The homeless outreach groups organizing and assisting the encampment hope that is negotiable.
“We’re trying to get permitted right now,” Williams says. “We’re trying to go through all the legal avenues we can. We’re not trying to be out here forever. We’re trying to be just as temporary as Los Guilicos.”
The county was not available for comment on Saturday. Camp residents say they’re hoping for trash, toilet and possibly security arrangements. Williams says she is working towards some kind of detente with authorities that will allow the campers to stay, at least for a little while.
“We’re trying to bridge all the gaps at work happening at the trail,” she says. “Try to make it a better camp for people so that they feel safer in the county feel safer with these people congregating in one place.”