Sonoma County Approves $12 Million Urgent Plan for Homeless

Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors approved a $12 million plan for the homeless on December 23, 2019.  (County of Sonoma )

Officials in Sonoma County approved nearly $12 million in emergency money to address a homeless encampment on county parkland that has grown to more than 200 people and been deemed a public health emergency.

Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on the funding Monday to provide housing and other services to those living in a mile-long encampment of tents and makeshift shelters along the Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the vote came amid growing complaints from residents and businesses about squalid, unsanitary conditions, including rats and other pests and a rash of used needles around the encampment.

The $11.63 million plan earmarks about $7 million for county officials to buy existing multi-bedroom units and also to open at least two “indoor-outdoor” shelters where people can hook up recreational vehicles and have safe parking spots if living in their cars. There will also be protected areas for people to sleep outdoors if they refuse to come inside, the newspaper reported.

The county also plans to spend $1 million to create seven new positions at the Department of Health Services and about $465,000 on 15 substance abuse beds. The plan calls for at least two sanctioned encampments featuring indoor and outdoor shelter and services — at a cost of more than $2 million — and leveraging another $5.5 million to acquire existing housing.

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Supervisor David Rabbitt said the urgency of the homelessness issue on the trail prompted immediate action but he’s worried about resources and the future of the county’s 3,000 homeless people.

“Resources are few and far between, and the problem is huge,” Rabbitt said. “Every jurisdiction has a homelessness problem. People are wonderful and empathetic, but everyone is scratching their heads about how to address it.”