Disaster Response in Sonoma County that is Inclusive and Equitable
The Real State of The Response
A Brief on Disaster Response in Sonoma County
For many years, The County of Sonoma Economic Development Board has published annual reports on the ‘state of the county’. These do not address the inequities faced by many of our families, neighbors and community members, particularly in the wake of the Complex and Kincade Fires. This report, the first in a series, presents the experiences of many undocumented, non-English speaking, and renting members of the community and how the County’s response to the disasters left them out. These recommendations, although specific to Sonoma County, are borne out of an assessment of our community’s vulnerabilities- informed by racism and classism-which are the same vulnerabilities consistently found in other communities.
The report highlights the gulf between official data collection and the actual experiences of Sonoma County residents. Undocumented families are unable to access official or traditional sources of aid due to their status; the report identifies that 75% of undocumented households reported wage loss or unemployment as a direct result of the fire. 90% of all households were renters, and of these, 27% reported being behind on rent. These statistics are not available from County sources—the County does not collect data on undocumented community members. Rather, they are sourced from UndocuFund, a mutual aid project that represents the only access many undocumented families had to relief in the wake of the fires and now, during COVID 19.
Out of this data come six recommendations to help Sonoma County government center front line communities in recovery frameworks:
1. Empower, sustain, and finance culturally competent community leaders for mutual aid disaster response and policy development.
2. Institute strict ordinances that protect tenants from discrimination and displacement as a result of lost wages, market speculation, underlying racism, and classism.
3. Invest and organize around those economic and social housing structures that affirm self-governance and build equity without building wealth on the backs of our community.
4. Create clear and accountable communication policy, enabling every person in Sonoma County to receive information in their functional language before, during, and after a disaster.
5. Effectively respond by providing public funding without debt directly to residents bearing the brunt of economic impacts as a result of disasters.
6. Fund community-driven navigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Trust in community organizing invests in the agency where it is most needed.
These recommendations, informed by the experiences of undocumented, non-English speaking, renting, and front-line community members, encompass the steps Sonoma County must take if it is to be an inclusive and equitable place to live. It must put its trust in organizations and mutual aid initiatives committed to those who are systematically denied access to resources, support, and recovery. It must not only listen but act on the demands of undocumented people, non-English speaking people, renters, and those on the front lines of disaster. Sonoma County must learn from past mistakes and do justice to its community.
Please find our report titled, The Real State of the Response: A Brief on Disaster Response in Sonoma County with associated materials here https://www.northbayop.org/just-recovery
Please join us Wednesday August 26 at 5:00 pm for a webinar reviewing the report: The Real State of the Response - Disaster Response in Sonoma County
Until then we request that you continue to spread this report far and wide. It is an essential reflection rooted in our community's experience during disasters. Also, if possible, please consider donating to UndocuFund during this trying time.
Download the full report in English or Spanish to learn more about how Sonoma County can center our communities in recovery frameworks to avoid reinforcing institutional racism in the response to and recovery from disasters.
DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT IN ENGLISH:
DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT IN SPANISH:
Explore “Diversifying Documentation with UndocuFund: An Examination of Post-Disaster Narratives” which examines dominant narratives that place value on certain experiences, certain losses post-disaster, while relegating others to the shadows and how Undocufund became a way to challenge this dominant narrative.
Check out NBOP’s other Disaster Response Work on our Immigrant Defense Task Force page
For more information please contact our Just Recovery Fellow
NBOP’s just recovery partnerships include
Undocufund - The UndocuFund, formed by NBOP and our allies Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, The Graton Day Labor Center and North Bay Jobs with Justice, has distributed over $10 million dollars directly into the pockets of the Sonoma County undocumented population.
Immigrant Defense - We continue to organize and lead the North Bay Rapid Response Network (Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties) that serves to verify and document ICE raids, accompany undocumented community members to immigration hearings, and provide ongoing training to legal observers, accompaniment teams, and community members.
Right to a Roof - We have expanded our work on tenant protections, and continue to lead a coalition to gain greater protections for tenants. Rents had risen 50% over 5 years prior to the fires and spiked 36% more after the fires. A 1% vacancy rate has left renters and low wage earners more vulnerable then ever, and many are rapidly being displaced from our region.
Sanacíon del Pueblo - Learn more about our people’s healing clinics here: