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Overall rate of homelessness in Sonoma County drops, but worrying trends persist

in Community

On the surface, the latest accounting of homelessness in Sonoma County produced good news: The number of homeless people in the county dropped 22%.

But against that backdrop, the January single-day count known as the Point in Time Census shows major areas of concern persist, including:

  • Rising Black homelessness. Black residents make up 2.5% of the county, but constitute 9% of the county’s homeless population. That percentage is up from 6% in 2020. In addition, 7% of the chronically homeless are Black.
  • Chronic homelessness. More than two-thirds of the homeless people surveyed during the count said they have been homeless for a year or more. That’s the same as in 2022 and up from 56% in 2018. The federal government defines chronic homelessness as being homeless for a year or more or being homeless four or more times in three years.
  • Increasing first-time homelessness. The percentage of people who said they were newly homeless continues to rise. This year, 35% of those surveyed in January reported that they were experiencing homelessness for the first time. That’s up from 32% last year and 30% in 2019.

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Santa Rosa brings homelessness laws in line with federal rules

in Community

One Santa Rosa city council member called the move a “moral injury.”

Another said they hope to see the city tell people where they can exist not just where they can’t.

But ultimately all seven members of the Santa Rosa city council voted to repeal and replace city laws regarding camping on public property – ushering in a new set of rules for the city’s homeless population.

Santa Rosa’s previous laws around homeless camping conflicted with the important Martin v Boise ruling. Santa Rosa’s homeless services manager Kelli Kuykendall said that 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling set consequential precedence.

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Improvements at Sam Jones Hall, North Bay’s largest shelter, moving forward after pandemic delay

in Community

The largest shelter in the North Bay and a key site in the local homeless housing network is getting some needed upgrades.

Improvements at Samuel L. Jones Hall in southwest Santa Rosa include the construction of new bathrooms and the addition of room partitions to provide more privacy for shelter residents.

The shelter, which opened in 2005 and is operated by Catholic Charities, has 213 beds and last year served about 660 people.

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Sonoma County, Santa Rosa get millions in state funds to address homeless encampments

in News

Sonoma County and Santa Rosa will each receive millions of dollars to help serve unhoused people from homeless encampments, state officials announced Wednesday.

Sonoma County will receive $4.6 million to use to “serve 130 people from an encampment along a multi-use trail,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced in a news release.

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Jury awards nearly $1 million to victim of 2019 dog mauling

in Animals/Community

Sonoma County, Caltrans and two homeless people must pay nearly $1 million in damages to a Santa Rosa woman who was mauled by a pit bull near an encampment in 2019, a civil jury has ruled.

The $946,000 award is in response to the Nov. 10, 2019, attack that severely injured Carolyn Teel, 54, near a homeless encampment on Hoen Frontage Road near Montgomery High School.

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Finding Grace: She lived in a Santa Rosa park for 3 years. Then, suddenly, she and her belongings were gone.

in Community/People

For more than three years, Grace Davis lived on Schurman Drive in north Santa Rosa.

She lived alone. No pets, no kids. She spent most of her time in Steele Lane Park, regardless of the weather, making conversation with friends and strangers alike.

She seemed to know everyone in the tight-knit neighborhood. The neighbor who lived just behind her. The couple across Schurman Drive. The woman on Steele Lane whose home backs up to the park. The man who walks his dog in the park.

Neighbors, who ultimately became friends, described 58-year-old Grace Davis as friendly, educated and positive. A true source of support.

One called her “Amazing Grace.”

So when, on the morning of April 5, neighbors saw no sign of Grace, their worry was immediate.

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Sonoma County campus to house homeless tents

in Community/Housing

County staff have selected a parking lot at 2550 Ventura Ave. on the County Government Center campus as the location for an emergency shelter site where space for up to 90 tents will be provided for homeless individuals to live temporarily while transitioning into permanent housing.The parking lot sits between Permit Sonoma and the Board of Supervisors offices.

The housing effort seeks to rehouse individuals who are currently living along the Joe Rodota Trail in East Sebastopol/West Santa Rosa.

According to a press release from the County of Sonoma, Permit Sonoma has to review the county’s own permit application before the county’s Homelessness Services Division can begin setting up tents, security fencing and amenities. The county’s goal is to begin transitioning individuals from the trail to the county campus, which is roughly seven miles away from one another, by Mar. 20.

Continue Reading on Sonoma Couty Gazette

Volunteers take to streets to count Sonoma County’s homeless population

in Community

A small army of over 150 volunteers, outreach workers and paid guides fanned out over Sonoma County in the pre-dawn hours of Friday looking to count the region’s homeless population.

Participants helping with the effort reported to deployment sites in Guerneville, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sonoma. Of critical importance to the success of the entire enterprise: coffee was served at each.

Employing “blitz and survey” tactics – conducting a census by a large team over a very short period of time – small teams proceeded to their designated areas. The squads were comprised of volunteers, outreach workers, program staff and “lived experience guides,” as the research firm referred to members who’d previously been homeless.

The expertise of those guides is critical in locating as many homeless people as possible. Their participation also gives volunteers an opportunity to get to know them, and hear their stories, over the five hours they’re together.

Continue Reading on The Press Democrat

‘People want placement’: Sonoma County to clear Joe Rodota Trail homeless encampment

in Community

Sonoma County officials on Tuesday are expected to begin clearing a homeless encampment on the Joe Rodota Trail where dozens of people and their pets have been living for weeks.

The county closed the trail Friday afternoon between Hampton Way and Dutton Avenue, where approximately 30 people were camped. Officials are aiming to reopen the trail by the end of the week, according to a Sonoma County news release.

Residents and advocates say they believe as many as 50 people live in the encampment near Roseland Avenue, where nearly 30 tents and makeshift shelters were visible Monday.

One woman appeared to be living out of a Jeep Wrangler, and dried clothing on a string tied between the vehicle and a shopping cart.

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

in Community/News
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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