Jan 2, 2020
by Vesta Copestakes
In our country, especially in our community of compassionate people, we believe that having a home, shelter, food, clothing, services, is a Human Right. We all deserve what is rightfully ours.
Volunteers spend countless hours preparing and delivering food to people who cannot supply their own. They clean up after people who do not clean up after themselves because it’s good for the people, and it’s good for the environment.
We ask our government to find solutions to problems that evade solving and ask taxpayers to pay for it all. Every now and then a homeless community stands out as a waving flag to get our attention to the ongoing problem of homelessness. How do we shelter and care for the unsheltered? Is this even possible?
Our county supervisors held an emergency meeting and set up a plan to create shelter for people on the Joe Rodota Trail. There will be a meeting on January 3rd at the Veteran’s Building in Santa Rosa to get community input for specific design elements of the indoor-outdoor shelter sites from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is only ONE camp among many throughout the county, but it has people’s attention because it is highly visible, and because it impedes people from using the trail as a transportation corridor.
Chances are you won’t have this print edition in your hands in time to know about the meeting, but hopefully you learned about it in time to attend.
Community input has to be part of the solution because the community, all taxpayers, are paying for these solutions. You want to be part of the decision-making when you go to the store…you should be part of the decision-making when our government spends your tax dollars.
Homelessness is more than putting a roof over someone’s head. There are as many reasons why someone is homeless as there are people without shelter. When people volunteer to help others they get a personal perspective that does not come from reading and watching news stories. In many ways volunteering is the only way to know how to help…when you meet people whose lives took a path that ended up under a tarp in the rain, you understand how close we all are to a misfortune that could lead to homelessness.
VOLUNTEER for Social Advocates for Youth to learn how you can help aged-out youth from Foster Care who don’t know what home and family really is. Pack bags of food and deliver them for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. Walk with Rick Caferetta of Reach for Home to meet the people he helps every day. Serve warm beverages with Catholic Charities when they set up warming shelters for people on especially cold nights. Join the Garbage Patch Kids of Clean River Alliance when they work with people in homeless camps who create their own trash service.
Sonoma County Acts of Kindness (Community Homeless Action Outreach) is one outreach group that is showing remarkable compassion for people who are among the unsheltered on the Joe Rodota Trail. (Find them on Facebook)
The list goes on. There are so many ways to UNDERSTAND the need and be part of how YOUR tax dollars can be spent WISELY to help people who never had a chance to know security, or who made life choices that took them down a dark road. You can’t know how people got here until you stand next to them and get to know who they are.
Following last week’s special Board meeting, County staff has quickly forged ahead to implement the strategic proposal to provide housing, sheltering and services to Joe Rodota Trail (trail) occupants.
On December 17, 2019, the Board declared a Homeless Emergency on the trail and held a special meeting on December 23, 2019 to approve several bold and ambitious strategic proposals to rapidly provide permanent supportive housing, indoor-outdoor sheltering, and critical support services to the over 200 trail occupants.
“Addressing the homeless emergency on the trail is a major priority of the Board. The progress staff has made over the past week demonstrates our commitment to aggressively respond and prepare to get individuals ultimately placed in permanent supportive housing,” said Board Chair David Rabbitt.
The County is on schedule to have permanent supportive housing placements available in 100 days and an indoor-outdoor shelter within 180 days or less for occupants on the trail.
While the County is working quickly to implement these permanent solutions, it has taken a number of actions over the past week to improve the conditions on the trail and address the public health concerns on the trail. The County has provided additional resources and services and augmented others already in place.
These resources and services include, the addition of 11 portable toilets, two hand washing stations, trash pickup services, and security patrols at night for the safety of those on the trail.
Vector control services are scheduled to begin the week of January 5, 2020 and plans for needle disposal are being developed.
The ultimate goal is to get the individuals on the trail into permanent housing while providing support services, so that they are more likely to stay housed. The Board approved a resolution to purchase homes for shared housing, seeking master leases for individual housing units and the development of two indoor-outdoor shelters as well as support services.
Support services include: medical and behavioral health services, social services—such as mental health and substance use residential treatment services, infectious disease testing and treatment, food assistance, cash assistance and applications for social security disability benefits.
The County is currently in negotiations on three houses. The County will be seeking Board approval for purchase of these properties at the January 14, 2020 Board meeting.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Master Leases has been developed and will be publicly available on January 10, 2020.
A community engagement meeting for specific design elements of the indoor-outdoor shelter sites has been scheduled for January 3, 2020 at the Veteran’s Hall in Santa Rosa from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I am fully dedicated to solving the emergency on the trail and have been a vocal advocate for finding solutions for some months now. I am glad we are able to take swift action that will address both the immediate concerns as well as the systemic issues to prevent individuals from falling back into homelessness”
~ Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose 5th district includes the trail.
For more information, visit: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Newsroom/Homeless-Emergency
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