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homeless advocates

Sonoma County homelessness agency reshuffles leadership amid surge in spending on crisis

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Volunteer Sherrie Vaughn helps a homeless person wake up with a drink of water in the Park & Ride homeless tent encampment near Roberts Lake in northern Rohnert Park on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Sonoma County’s joint homelessness agency — in charge of millions of dollars in public funding and key policy decisions — has for the fourth time in nearly as many years reshuffled its leadership board to better tackle the local crisis as unprecedented sums of state and federal money are now pouring into the region.

The entity, known as the Sonoma County Continuum of Care, has since its inception just over a decade ago been hampered by bureaucracy, mismanagement and poor communication, according to critics and a scathing 2020 civil grand jury report.

In hopes of building a more unified response to homelessness, the Continuum of Care, which includes county and city representatives, last week finalized the latest iteration of its now 17-member decision-making board. One of the main goals was to add members from smaller cities, giving them a stake in policy and spending decisions as California and the federal government are offering much more money — including $12 billion from the state — to launch and expand programs for the unhoused.

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Santa Rosa groups help homeless register for $1,200 government stimulus checks

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Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat
Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

In oppressive Thursday afternoon heat and with little fanfare, they broke through the $100,000 barrier.

Under a pair of tents pitched on Challenger Way in west Santa Rosa, a cadre of do-gooders helped vulnerable people overcome the small challenges preventing them from collecting a large windfall from Uncle Sam.

“Keep an eye out for an email from the IRS in the next couple days,” Azura Star told a 30-something man in a flat-brimmed ballcap sitting across the table from her.

Star is a volunteer for the Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Coalition, a Santa Rosa group of homeless advocates. Working with three other groups — Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, Mask Sonoma and DSA Northbay — they’ve spent several weeks signing up their “shelterless neighbors” to receive the $1,200 stimulus payments most eligible people already received from the U.S. government. For people experiencing homelessness, said Squeaky Wheel founder Marcos Ramirez, seemingly minor challenges — charging their phones, accessing the Internet and figuring out a mailing address to which the feds can send the check — can loom as “massive” obstacles.

Continue Reading on The Press Democrat

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