Supervisors to Tackle Homeless Encampment Crisis

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When Sonoma County supervisors meet on Tuesday, they will hear proposals from county officials that may dramatically transform the way in which the North Bay’s most populus county delivers services to homeless individuals and families.

Supervisors are set to consider emergency action to deal with a large and growing homeless encampment along the Joe Rodota Trail, an encampment whose visibility and location near homes has put pressure on elected officials to take decisive and immediate action.

Homeless advocates and some elected officials say homelessness must be treated as a crisis, and it’s expected that the county, in coordination with the city of Santa Rosa, will take action to establish a new homeless shelter location that would offer both security and health services.

Although a new shelter location would address the humanitarian crisis at the Joe Rodota Trail, officials insist that any new location chosen will be temporary, and they remain committed to the Housing First model of matching the homeless to permanent housing options and services.

Whatever action is ultimately taken, it’s clear that the options under consideration on Tuesday would diverge sharply from the past, when large encampments were cleared by police and campers offered temporary shelter in existing locations.

The main architect of the new homeless options is the county’s Community Development Commission, which is reportedly considering setting up a pilot shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds that would include both indoor and outdoor spaces.  Unlike the current outdoor encampment along Joe Rodota Trail, the facility would provide on-site access to water, permanent restrooms, social services and heated spaces.

Besides the fairgrounds proposal, supervisors may also have the option to move forward with other ideas.  These could include establishing safe parking or camping locations on public land or private property, relocating some families to private apartments, and for those to refuse to relocate to the main shelter hub, the offer of subsidized camping at public and private campgrounds.





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