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Sonoma County Gazette
Homeless Camp on River

Addressing Homelessness
in the Lower Russian River Area

Aug 31, 2017


Engaging diverse community representatives to decide the best short-term strategies

The addition of $750,000 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in the adopted budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year provides a unique opportunity to convene a targeted, collaborative process to decide how to invest the one-time money to alleviate the current crisis of homelessness. Sonoma County proposes to convene a select group of no more than sixteen people representing the diversity of views from government, business, non-profits, and concerned citizens in Guerneville and the surrounding area in a short-term collaborative process with the authority – subject to BOS approval – to expend the funds.

Goal: Mitigate the impacts of homelessness for those without shelter, for the residents and businesses in the River area, and for the environment. Reduce by 25% the number of unsheltered homeless people in the River area by January 2019.

A.) Format and process steps:

The proposed format recognizes the numerous community processes that have been convened in the past, and seeks to drive directly towards actionable investment recommendations as quickly as possible. Process will launch in August 2017, following this outline:

1. Sonoma County Community Development Commission will provide staffing support, but has no other authority over the process or outcomes.1. Sonoma County Community Development Commission will provide staffing support, but has no other authority over the process or outcomes.

2. One multi-hour meeting in August 2017 to start; could add one more as needed to solidify agreements and understandings.

3. Use of strong, neutral facilitation to ensure all voices are heard.

4. Media will be invited to be present and to report on the meeting.

5. County offers a draft set of outcome goals and guiding principles for the group to start with; first task of group is to agree on these goals and principles.

6. Having achieved agreement on goals, group works on outline of and parameters for an expedited solicitation process, such as a Request for Indications of Interest (RFI).

7. If any members of the group are potential applicants for funding, a method for addressing possible conflicts of interest (such as establishment of a sub group) will be established by consensus.

8. CDC administers the RFI process; returns to group with recommendations for funding.

9. Group designates representatives to formally recommend to BOS.

Key to success is the group commitment to shared ownership of successes and failures; participants represent a constituency and/or core perspective and will take responsibility for helping to communicate agreements and outcomes back to those constituencies and the broader public.

B.) Investment Categories and Method:

Provide one-time grants to local organizations to fund projects or initiatives that will contribute to the established goal. Set-aside of no less than $500,000 for housing specific activities or activities that move homeless people closer to being housed; the remainder to address other issues (law enforcement, tourism, environment, etc.)

C.) Core Requirements (“must-haves”) for expenditure of the $750K:

Sonoma County requires that the funded projects and/or activities meet certain guidelines, (which will be more fully defined and discussed).

1. Measurable outcomes can reasonably be predicted, tracked and reported.

2. Housing solutions need to focus on “Housing First” strategies or preventing new or recurrent homelessness; relevant data about individuals receiving housing assistance will need to be entered into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).

3. Investments in human, health or social services need to align with the County’s Safety Net strategies.

4. Need to guard against duplication, fragmentation and overlap.

5. Grants need to conform to basic public contracting protocols and grantees must be legally recognized organizations.

6. There can be no expectation for ongoing funding in subsequent years.

D.) Draft Proposed Values/Guiding Principles:

These principles will need to be discussed and agreed to at the beginning of the process. By consensus the group may add to or modify these.

1. The County respects the wisdom and capacity that exist within the community

a. County government cannot impose its solutions on the community

2. Collaboration is valued and this means shared responsibility, shared ownership, shared investment, and shared learning

3. We first take a humanitarian approach to creating solutions for the homeless crisis

a. We recognize the limitations of law enforcement, even while acknowledging that criminal activity should not be tolerated

b. Likewise, we recognize the serious environmental impacts created by the large number of homeless people camping in the river area and solutions that also address river clean-up will be considered

4. Accountability and transparency are imperative for use of public funds

a. Organizations using public funds must demonstrate baseline capacity to deliver results and provide metrics, or partner with established groups with such capacity

b. Existing programmatic investments by County and others should be leveraged to the greatest extent possible.

c. Some promising but untested concepts could be considered, at the discretion of the group and ultimately the Board

5. Though the current effort surrounds one-time funding, to the greatest extent

b. Existing programmatic investments by County and others should be leveraged to the greatest extent possible.

c. Some promising but untested concepts could be considered, at the discretion of the group and ultimately the Board

E.) Participation (alphabetical order)

1. Environmental  Advocate

2. Downtown Business Owner

3. Friends and Residents of Guerneville

4. Guerneville Chamber of Commerce

5. Guerneville Community Alliance

6. Guerneville Elementary School District

7. Monte Rio Fire District

8. Monte Rio Parks District

9. Non-profit service organization

10. Non-profit service organization

11. Onsite wastewater Treatment System Group

12. Russian River Fire District

13. Russian River Parks and Recreation

14. Sonoma County Department of Health Services

15.Sonoma County Human Services Department

16. Sonoma County Sheriff

F.) Logistics, data and other important details

1. County departments will provide basic staff support, including providing available data, past reports and studies, drafting agendas, capturing agreements reached, defining basic contracting templates, and demonstrating current programmatic investment levels.

2. An overall schedule will be created at the first meeting with input from the group.

3. The meetings will not be open to the general public, though meeting notes and any agreements reached will be published and widely available.  Members of the media will be invited to attend. Any solicitation document created as a result of the work of the task force will be publicly available, as will any other written work product. 



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