SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Those without housing living in Santa Rosa now have somewhere to stay amid the coronavirus pandemic after the city opened its first-ever safe site for the homeless.
However, some local homeless residents expressed skepticism over whether they would try the space out, regardless of the dangers presented by COVID-19.
There are 28 people who have taken advantage of the new city-managed homeless camp as of Tuesday. Santa Rosa officials say that’s about half capacity.
The rows of tents were neatly lined up in the back parking lot of the Finley Aquatic Center.
Director of Santa Rosa Housing and Community Services David Gouin told KPIX 5 the city hopes it helps to promote social distancing among the homeless.
“Basically, it’s a managed camp area, providing safe distance between tents, 12 feet per the Centers For Disease Control guidelines,” said Gouin. Providing three meals, showers, restrooms, hand sanitizer, washing stations.”
Down the street, under US Highway 101, some homeless people KPIX 5 spoke to said they are not interested. They said their current camp is out of the rain and protected from the sun. Then there’s this.
Heidi Hendricks is one of the homeless living under the freeway said she was unlikely to try the new camp.
“I don’t like controlled environments, so I probably wouldn’t,” said Hendricks. “Maybe if it was the last resort and I didn’t have nowhere else to go, I might check it out.”
The city-run camp is going to be a tough sell for officials. Many of these homeless used to camp out at the encampment on the Joe Rodota Trail. The city dismantled that encampment. No one living under the freeway trust city officials.
“Unless we were, like, really forced to go there, I don’t think anybody would willingly want to leave our spot to go there,” said Kelsey Kirton, another person living under the 101 overpass.
Tuesday afternoon, a few more folks arrived at the city-run site, but they hustled into the camp avoiding cameras. City officials says they are trying to help.
“This isn’t a destination. This is a process of inviting folks into the service sand encourage them to change their circumstances” said Gouin.
The Sonoma County Health Department wouldn’t comment on the new managed camp, instead referring all questions to the city.