Oct 12, 2018
by Will Carruthers
Homeless advocates gathered for a five-hour meeting on possible solutions to Sonoma County's homeless crisis, ranging from building villages of tiny houses, housing people at risk of homelessness with locals who have extra rooms, to designating legal parking lots for those living in their vehicles.
Activist groups hosted a discussion about short-term solutions to house the county's homeless population using a new pot of state funding.
The event, titled "Homes For All," was slated to offer solutions for the county's homeless crisis.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to reshuffle the county's homeless care administration structure in hopes of simplifying and unifying the planning and decision-making processes.
Activists presented possible uses for $12.1 million from a one-time funding stream for homelessness. The funding, through theCalifornia Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), will be awarded to the county'sContinuum of Care, are intended for a broad range of emergency support programs for individuals, families, and transitional age youth between the ages of 18 and 24.
The funding can be spent on homeless services, rental assistance, capital projects and some administrative costs, according to a flyer distributed at the meeting.
All of the funds must be spent by June 30, 2021.
Because the money must be spent quickly, activists from groups including Homeless Action!, the Living Room, the iBelong Project, theCommunity Action Coalition, and the Democrat Socialists of America proposed "experimental" solutions to the crisis.
Just 26 percent of the county's 2,996 homeless residents were staying in homeless shelters and transitional housing, according to the 2018 Sonoma County Homeless Census.
Activists were not satisfied with proposals to build our way out of the crisis because conventional housing takes years to fund, permit and build.
Proposed solutions included building homeless villages around the county, as other cities and counties have done.
Santa Rosa City Council Members Julie Combs and Jack Tibbetts attended the event.
In a speech, Combs called the crisis the result of structural problems, not a single group.
"As a culture, we pay more attention to fast disasters," Combs said, just over a year after the 2017 North Bay fires."Our homeless crisis is a lot like a slow fire."
Under the new system, the CoC Leadership Board - made up of nine elected officials from around the county - and the Technical Advisory Committee - consisting of 25 members of the public - will oversee the county's homeless care strategies and project funding.
Despite the persistent problem and complete solutions far off, conference attendees were cautiously hopeful about the future, citing the new funding fromHEAP, California Emergency Solutions and Housing (CESH), along with possible state and local affordable housing funds on the November ballot.
"This is the start of turning our dreams into real proposals,"Gregory Fearon, a Homeless Action! member, said. "This is not the end of [the process]. This is the start of it.
Thursday, October 18, 1-4PM - Sonoma County's Continuum of Care Quarterly Meeting: Members of the Community Development Commission and the CoC will discuss the $12.1 million of HEAP funding designated for Sonoma County. 1440 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa.
Friday, October 19, 5PM - Deadline for Applications to the CoC's Technical Advisory Committee: Applications are available online here. Completed applications may be submitted in person at 1440 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, or emailed to Michael.Gause@sonoma-county.org.
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