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Ending Homlessness in Sonoma County by 2025


Ending Homlessness in Sonoma County by 2025

By Jenny Abramson & Michael Gause
The faces of the people living “on the streets” of Sonoma County aren’t the faces we see in the mirror. Although we don’t recognize or often acknowledge them, the people who are unsheltered are, in fact, a part of our community. A forgotten and often scorned part of the community, they struggle to survive. Whether by factors beyond their control – untreated diseases, financial calamity, or past traumatic experiences – or for other reasons, people who are homeless are often stigmatized.

As our community enters another winter season, and prepares to perform the annual census of those without homes, understanding more about our homeless neighbors informs our use of scarce public and private resources, and reminds us that “they” are us.
In August of 2015, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors endorsed a bold effort to end homelessness across all of Sonoma County by 2025. To be successful, this effort, which has just begun its first steps, must be built upon broad collaboration, shared understanding, and focused investments. The end goal is the creation of 2,200 new permanent homes for people who are homeless. The Board’s bold action to begin this work embraces compassion for the most vulnerable.

Who are the homeless in our community?
In January of 2015, the Sonoma County Homeless Count identified 3,107 individuals either living on the streets (2,070) or in temporary emergency shelters (1,037). Over 1,600, or 51%, were interviewed in detail to document demographics and establish the profile of those without homes. Here is their story.

87% are single adults over 18;
30% are single women;
12%, totaling 367 people, are in families with children;
57% are suffering from mental health issues;
36% are survivors of domestic violence;
31% are struggling with substance abuse problems;
7% are veterans;
Over 85% of those in the counted were housed in Sonoma County before becoming homeless; and,
13% are working.

What can be done, and how you can help.
Each year, we conduct the Sonoma County Homeless Count, an enumeration of those without homes on one night during the year, creating our baseline number of local homeless individuals. This census is completed to identify the scope of the need of those living without housing in the County. Traversing the county to tally homeless people one by one, and then following up with detailed interviews, we see the true face of the problem and not merely the statistics.

Being counted matters.  Being seen is crucial.

Helping is our choice.

On Friday, January 29th, 2016, volunteers will work with paid guides who have been or who are homeless to walk through assigned routes from 6am to 10:00am to identify the people who are homeless. Our count generates funding for homeless service providers through grants from state and federal agencies, and from private funders in support of their efforts countywide. More importantly, it puts a face on homelessness. This “Point- In-Time” one day count of the county’s homeless population helps to confirm the need for these funds, and informs how they can best be used to serve.

You can help by volunteering for the street count scheduled for January 29th, 2016. We need over 70 volunteers to actively participate in the process for counting homeless individuals and families living outside. Volunteer participation is critical to the success of this countywide effort.
The ultimate answer to ending homelessness will always be creating real homes: safe, permanent and healthy places for people to live. This will require land, financing, and community acceptance. Recognition, compassion and action are needed. People without safe housing have virtually no opportunity to maintain their health or improve their lives. They have little chance to gain or advance employment. It will not be easy or quick to build the number of homes needed to provide housing for all of the homeless over the next ten years, but it can be done. A home that has a sturdy roof above and sustained warmth within brings stability and hope for residents. While the needed resources are martialed to build the true solution for ending homelessness, knowing the true face of people who are without shelter is critical. Participating in the Count illuminates our homeless neighbors in the darkness and connects our community to those most in need.

To participate in the Count, please fill out the volunteer registration form available at:

or by emailing or by calling (707) 565-1977.

We CAN end homelessness. It will require hearts and minds working together, finding those in need and together building a complete community.

Jenny Abramson is the Homeless and Community Services Manager for the Sonoma County Community Development Commission. Michael Gause is a Community Development Associate also with the SCCDC.