As most of you know by now, Sonoma County is building a temporary homeless community in a disused parking lot next to the Los Guilicos Juvenile Justice Center. This has been well covered in stories in the Press Democrat on Jan 15 and Jan 17. Construction of the various temporary buildings is well underway and the facility is expected to open next Wednesday.
This morning an open meeting was held in the Berger Auditorium in Oakmont, to provide more details and answer questions from community members. Berger was filled to capacity, and around 200 questions were submitted by audience members on provided forms. Numerous people also shouted out questions during the question and answer period.
The purpose of this report is to relay key points from that meeting.
- Individual shelters are “tiny homes”, each around 8 to 10 feet square and capable of housing one or two people, with a heater and an electrical outlet.
- Up to 60 individuals will relocate to the shelter.
- The intent is for the shelter to close down by April 30, but that will be under control of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
- The residents are being screened, so that only the most vulnerable will be relocated to Los Guilicos. Criteria include: age over 50, victims of abuse, veterans, persons with medical or mental health issues.
- Meals will be provided on a regular schedule to residents.
- The facility will provide services for assisting residents and helping them transition to a more permanent situation.
- There will be a “community center” providing television, activities and classes for residents.
- The facility will be surrounded by a chain link fence, and residents are not expected to come and go on foot. There will be an hourly shuttle bus to take them into Santa Rosa. While the operator cannot prevent them from exiting the facility on foot, doing so very often will be reason for relocating an individual elsewhere.
- Frequent visitors will be discouraged, and all persons coming or going must be checked in or out. There will be 24/7 security on-site, and staff will work with local law enforcement as needed.
- No alcohol, drugs or weapons will be allowed within the camp (it was noted that homeless people often carry knives).
- No tents and no camping outside of the fenced perimeter will be allowed.
- No campfires or other open flames will be allowed, and there will be fire extinguishers throughout the camp.
The Los Guilicos shelter is an emergency response by the County to the serious problem of homeless persons camping along the Joe Rodota Trail. County staff were given strict criteria for selecting a site for this emergency shelter, including:
- existing control by the County and available immediately
- no restrictions or conditions preventing usage of the site
- not embedded within a neighborhood
The only two sites that met all the requirements were Los Guilicos and a site on the County campus immediately adjacent to a childcare facility. The County Board of Supervisors chose Los Guilicos, over the objections of Supervisor Susan Gorin.
The next phase, which will require months to implement, is construction of more permanent indoor/outdoor shelters for homeless. This was not well defined at the meeting, but it sounded like the purposes and services would be similar to those provided by the Los Guilicos shelter. The long-term goal is to provide “permanent supportive housing” for the homeless, as well as more affordable housing in Sonoma County.
For More Information
Jack Tibbetts, the Executive Director of St. Vincent De Paul, the community service organization which will be operating the emergency shelter, gave a fairly convincing presentation documenting how the facility would be operated, for the good of both the residents and the surrounding community. He stated that both he and shelter director Brandon Rojas are available by cell phone and Email for anyone who has concerns:
- Jack Tibbetts, (707) 495-7438, jtibbetts@svdp-Sonoma.org
- Brandon Rojas, (707) 791-6391, brojas@svdp-Sonoma.org
Mr. Rojas is also the person to contact if you would like to volunteer to help with the shelter operations. More information may also be obtained at https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Homeless-Emergency/ or by Emailing SolveHomelessness@sonoma-county.org.
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