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.
Permit Sonoma has reviewed the permit application and is expected to approve it this week. Once final permits are issued, the county’s Homelessness Services Division will begin setting up tents, security fencing and amenities at the site over the next two weeks. The county’s goal is to begin transitioning individuals from encampments along Joe Rodota Trail to the site by the week of March 20, weather and site-setup constraints permitting.
Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, and District 4 Supervisor James Gore, whose district includes the county campus, will host a virtual public meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 13 to brief neighborhood residents on plans for this shelter site and its services and security parameters.
During the Zoom meeting, the public will be invited to ask questions or offer comments either live or in writing. Questions and comments also may be submitted in advance by emailing them to email@example.com. Members of the public are encouraged to register early for the Zoom meetings by going to: sonomacounty.zoom.us/webinar.
The county has not determined at this time whether a second emergency shelter site will be needed. If a second site is needed, staff has recommended placing it in a portion of the rear parking area at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, located at 1351 Maple Ave.
The appearance of homeless encampments around the county, particularly on Joe Rodota Trail, has underscored the urgent need for additional emergency shelter space. The current shortage of both interim and permanent supportive housing in Sonoma County has limited the county’s ability to clear the encampments along Joe Rodota Trail, which has repeatedly been closed over the last four years due to public safety concerns.
Given the number of individuals in encampments on the Joe Rodota Trail currently exceeds available shelter capacity, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 21 to declare a shelter crisis and authorized staff to create up to two emergency sites to shelter people experiencing homelessness. Board members and Homelessness Services staff held two public webinars in February to provide additional information and answer public questions and concerns. A list of Frequently Asked Questions and answers can be found on the Homelessness Services website.
In coordination with the City of Santa Rosa, the emergency shelter site on the Permit Sonoma parking lot has received initial authorization to operate for six months. An extension beyond six months would require approval from both the Santa Rosa Fire Department and the County of Sonoma.
The site will be managed by DEMA, a local service provider, under contract with the county. Fencing will be erected near Administration and Paulin drives along the boundaries of the site. Site managers will implement and enforce rules to protect the safety and security of shelter residents and the surrounding neighborhood. Security will be at the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to patrol the shelter site as well as the surrounding area. Individuals seeking to live at the emergency shelter site will be screened in advance. Individuals with convictions for violent and/or sexual offenses will be excluded.
Case management will also provide on-site support services that include behavioral and physical health care, housing assistance and access to job training for residents of the managed care sites. Case management will be “housing-focused,” meaning that residents will work regularly on activities that help prepare them for their next housing steps.
For more information including recordings of the webinars and frequently asked questions regarding the sites, visit Homeless Services Division webpage.
For more information on Sonoma County’s homelessness services please visit SonomaCounty.ca.gov.