The County of Sonoma, God Bless them, have “connected the dots” for us to be directly concerned and perhaps involved in an issue that is social, not in our ‘wheelhouse’ of infrastructure work. Spending $11 million in emergency funds that would normally go to roads and slides and other “normal emergencies”, gets our attention. The PD article on that decision is here–
After weeks and weeks of discussion and staff immersion into this issue, the Sonoma County Supes (on Tuesday, 1-14-20) picked a site for the homeless encampment to be developed-it is right across from the entrance to Oakmont near Pythian Road, at Los Guilicos (which was where the “bad kids” had to go)—article here from the Sonoma Sun
What is prompting the County to have to build a homeless encampment at such a huge expense?
Two key reasons:
- There was a local lawsuit regarding the breaking up of a homeless encampment behind The Dollar Store in Roseland and at the end of Farmer’s Lane in Bennett Valley in 2017 and 2018. This lawsuit was brought by a public interest group called Homeless Action, led by Kathleen Finnigan. “The settlement requires that homeless people moved from public areas be offered adequate, alternative shelter, depending on their individual circumstances — whether related to disability, sexual orientation, family status, possession of a service animal or pet, mental or emotional health. Approved by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria for the Northern District of California, the settlement specifically notes that barracks-style placement like Sam Jones Hall, the region’s largest shelter, with 200 beds, doesn’t work for everyone.
- In December of 2019, the Supreme Court refused to review the lower court Federal ruling called the “Boise” ruling (six people sued the City of Boise a decade ago when they “rousted them” and they claimed it violated the 8th Amendment as Cruel and Unusual Punishment because they had nowhere else to go). The refusal to review that case was a huge victory for the homeless advocates and basically codifies the Federal statute that supports the local ruling I mentioned in item 1 above. Despite the fact that the Sam Jones shelter has approximately 60 empty beds every night that are available to the homeless, that is not enough—Press Democrat article here
So, in December of 2019 the City of Santa Rosa and County of Sonoma had most of their options clarified for them as to the huge homeless population on the Joe Rodota Trail. They could no longer just “look away”. They had to create several types of alternative housing for the homeless in order to move them from the public camp sites on the Rodota trail and elsewhere.
So, now the County is budgeting over $11 million to be able to breakup the Rodota Trail encampment.
Do any of us believe that all of the Rodota campers will be happy to move out to the picturesque Valley of the Moon site? Even though the plan is to provide public transportation every hour from Los Guilicos to downtown Santa Rosa so the homeless can avail themselves of the free meals they can get there, and the free dog food they can get there, and the other amenities that the big City can offer where the remote Los Guilicos cannot, I do not see more than half of the homeless moving there.
But whether they actually go there or not, well, that is not the issue. The issue becomes “has the County and City” provided alternatives to the homeless that meet the criteria of both the local lawsuit and the Boise ruling? If so, now the police can ask the homeless to “move along” and get off of public rights of way.
You can see that I stayed away from the causes and reasons for homelessness here. It is too big an issue to deal with in this little space. I am only dealing with how this Boise law and the Dollar Store lawsuit and the Homeless Action group is getting funding that might normally go towards our industry. Will road repair suffer? I will attempt to ask the County folks if my fears are warranted and will report back when I hear some answers.
Until then, maybe you know just a little more about why we cannot just “Look Away” from this problem.
That’s All Folks!