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Human Rights Commission Calls for Immediate Winter Freeze Relief for Unsheltered Persons

The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights this week called on Sonoma County Health Officials to open up county buildings for use by unhoused members of the community, as nighttime temperatures have routinely dropped below freezing this November.

Arguing that in other times of emergency, municipal buildings have been designated “in a matter of hours” to house and provide food, water and facilities for unhoused people, such as those displaced by wildfires, county officials should “honor this winter emergency” by designating unused spaces at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Hall, Sonoma County Fairground buildings and other facilities “for the purpose of providing dry, warm places as safe haven and respite to the unsheltered.”

“There are some 3,000 unhoused people in Sonoma County, but only 1,000 shelter beds,” wrote county human rights commissioners in an announcement at sonomacounty.ca.gov. “However, some 2,000 unsheltered persons still have not been provided with such life-sustaining necessities, have no legal place to rest and are thusly forced to live outdoors and are again facing another winter with freezing and below freezing temperatures.”

Commission members said county protocol around Emergency Freeze and Cold Warming Centers is to open warming shelters in the event of three consecutive nights reaching below 32 degrees—a benchmark they said was reached Nov. 14, 15 and 16.

Concluded the commission: “We, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, demand that the Protocols for Emergency Freeze and Cold Warming Centers be revised. The County cannot wait until deadly temperatures are reached before providing lifesaving assistance.”

 

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