May 11, 2020
Last week, the City of Santa Rosa announced plans to establish a Safe Social Distancing site for unsheltered individuals in a section of the parking lot of Finley Community Center amid the coronavirus pandemic and setup of the site is now underway. The City has received many questions regarding site selection and operation, as well as concerns regarding safety, and continues to address questions and concerns as they arise. In addition, a virtual community meeting is being planned for this Thursday evening, May 14. More details, including time and agenda, will posted here.
The City assessed all City-owned parking lot areas to determine a space for the Safe Social Distancing Program to be located during the public health emergency. The space to be utilized is the parking lot area located between the Person Senior Wing building and the Finley tennis courts. VIEW MAP
In addition to the safe social distancing site at Finley, previous actions taken by the City to protect persons experiencing homelessness and the community at large from greater spread of COVID-19 include placing those sheltered and unsheltered individuals at the greatest risk of susceptibility to COVID-19 in hotel rooms, providing sanitary facilities at or near known encampments, and distributing face masks to individuals living in encampments.
Catholic Charities will provide services coordination and on-site management for the Program. Catholic Charities staff will be on-site during the day from 7am to 7pm. Security will also be provided on-site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The site includes perimeter fencing with privacy screening (pictured) and curfew is 8:00 p.m. – no one else will be allowed to enter or leave the site after that time. Access to essential services such as portable toilets and handwashing stations, refuse containers, mobile shower unit, and meals will be provided, plus linkage to safety net and medical services.
The City of Santa Rosa is establishing a Safe Social Distancing area, in the City-owned parking lot at Finley Community Center, for temporary use by vulnerable unsheltered individuals amid the coronavirus pandemic. To help answer questions about the program, the following FAQs have been developed and will continue to be updated as the City receives additional questions from the community.
Q1. What is the Safe Social Distancing Program?
A. The City of Santa Rosa is working on efforts to ensure unsheltered individuals who are not considered to be at high-risk for COVID-19, are maintaining proper social distancing.
To that end, a section of the parking lot at Finley Community Center located at 2060 West College Avenue, will be utilized to provide a temporary, managed social-distancing space for unsheltered populations amid the COVID-19 emergency. The site will provide space for 70 tents, with each tent accommodating an individual or couple. The 24,600 square foot parking lot space to be utilized is located between the Person Senior Wing building and the Finley tennis courts; see site location at SRCity.org/FinleySafeDistancingSite.
Q2. When will this site be operational and how long will it be in operation?
A. Setup of the Safe Social Distance Program is anticipated to begin the week of May 11th with occupancy anticipated to begin the week of May 18th. The site is expected to operate through the duration of the Sonoma County Health Officer’s Shelter in Place Order.
Q3. Will individuals who relocate to this site be indoors or will they be living outdoors? What do the site set-ups look like?
A. The Finley Community Center parking lot site will provide space for 70 tents, with each tent accommodating an individual or couple. The tents will be spaced 12-feet apart to achieve social distancing as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in its interim guidance for unsheltered populations. The site will include perimeter fencing, portable toilets and handwashing stations, refuse containers, a staff tent, and designated common areas.
Q4. What agencies are involved in this Program?
A. The City of Santa Rosa will provide the tents for this Program, along with funding to provide portable toilets, handwashing stations, meals, on-site management, and security. Catholic Charities will provide services coordination and on-site management for the Program.
Q5. What locations are being considered for this Program? Why was the Sonoma County Fairgrounds not considered as a site for the Safe Social Distancing Program?
A. The City assessed all city-owned parking lot areas to determine a space for the Safe Social Distancing Program to be located during the public health emergency. At this time, the only site that will operate a Safe Social Distancing Program will be the section of the Finley Community Center parking lot, 2060 W. College Ave. The space to be utilized is the parking lot area located between the Person Senior Wing building and the Finley tennis courts; view aerial of site location: SRCity.org/FinleySafeDistancingSite.
In addition to the safe social distancing site at Finley, previous actions have been taken by the City to first place those sheltered and unsheltered individuals at the greatest risk of susceptibility to COVID-19 in hotel rooms. Based on national best practice, strict safety protocols have been implemented in all City-sponsored homeless service operations. In coordination with the County of Sonoma, portable toilets and hand-washing stations were placed at or near known encampments within the City to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The City also placed debris containers near these encampments and provided face masks to individuals living in encampments.
The fairgrounds property is owned by the County of Sonoma and decisions regarding its use are subject to the discretion of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. On March 10, 2020 the Board of Supervisors selected three sites for the future development of indoor-outdoor shelters, including Chanate Hall, Permit Sonoma parking lot, and a section of the fairgrounds near Aston Avenue. These plans have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The County is currently using 10 trailers provided by the State at the fairgrounds for temporary shelter in response to COVID-19.
Q6. How was the decision made to establish the site? Why the parking lot at the Finley Community Center and not at other parking lots or parks?
A. The City conducted an analysis of all City-owned parking lots for the development of a Safe Social Distancing Program. This included consultation with a subcommittee of the Santa Rosa City Council, comprised of Mayor Schwedhelm and Council Member Dowd. Based on staff’s analysis and recommendation, direction of the subcommittee, and pursuant to the City’s Local Emergency Proclamation approved on March 3, 2020 in response to the community health threat posed by COVID-19, Finley was selected as the preferred site for the Program.
Q7. What notification has been done to inform residents and businesses near the site?
A. The neighborhood and community at-large have been notified via the following outlets:
A virtual community meeting is being planned for the evening of Thursday, May 14th. Additional details on time and instructios for participating will be provided soon.
Letter in English and Spanish mailed First Class to all residents and property owners within a quarter mile radius of the safe social distancing site (1,487 addresses) delivered on Wednesday, May 6th
News Release distributed to City’s local media contacts
Website: Information posted on the City’s websites on May 6th through 11
Eblast and/or Text Message updates sent to approximately 68,000 citizens currently subscribed to receive City’s News Updates; sign up via www.srcity.org/news
NextDoor: Information posted on NextDoor and targeted to neighborhoods surrounding site
Q8. Why are individuals experiencing homelessness still allowed to live in encampments during the public health emergency?
A. The City is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which advises against dispersing encampments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the Sonoma County Health Officer’s Extended Shelter in Place Order (C19-05) exempts individuals experiencing homelessness from self-isolating inside of a residence, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and governmental and other entities are strongly urged to make shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extend practical.
In the context of COVID-19, the risks associated with sleeping outdoors in an encampment setting are different than with staying indoors in a congregate setting such as an emergency shelter or other congregate living facility. Outdoor settings may allow people to increase distance between themselves and others. However, sleeping outdoors often does not provide protection from the environment, quick access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, or connection to healthcare, which is one reason why the City is taking action to create safer situations for social distancing among those experiencing homelessness as well as to mitigate impacts to the broader community.
Q9. What happens if we need to use Finley Community Center as an evacuation center while the site is still operating? A. The Program will not impact activation of Finley Community Center as an evacuation center in the event of an emergency.
Q10. What is the cost of this Program and where do the funds come from?
A. Monthly operating costs are estimated at $150,000 for services and materials, plus approximately $4,000 for site set-up costs. Program expenses will be covered by the City’s General Fund. The City is currently evaluating funding options for COVID-19 related expenses, including reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Q11. What outreach is being done to inform individuals experiencing homelessness about this Program? How are individuals being prioritized?
A. Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) is currently conducting outreach to encampments throughout the community. Individuals residing in encampments that are most densely populated and in need of social distancing will be prioritized for this Program. Individuals identified as “at risk” (age 65 years and older and/or underlying medical conditions) will be referred to the County’s Non-Congregate Shelter (NCS) program at Sonoma State University.
A. Catholic Charities will provide services coordination and on-site management for the Program. Catholic Charities staff will be on-site during the daytime from 7am to 7pm. 24/7 security will also be provided on-site.
Q13. Will transportation be offered to the site?
A. Yes. Transportation will be coordinated from the Homeless Services Center (600 Morgan Street) to the Finley site.
Q14. What services will be offered? Will toilets and garbage cans be available at the site?
A. Access to essential services such as portable toilets and handwashing stations, refuse containers, mobile shower unit, and meals will be provided, plus linkage to safety net and medical services.
Q15. Will storage be provided for personal belongings?
A. Yes. Individuals will be allowed one bike and two totes for storage plus what they can safely keep in their tent.
Q16. Will animals be allowed?
A. Yes. Up to 5 dogs will be allowed at the site plus any service dogs. Catholic Charities has an existing pet policy for its emergency shelter programs which will be used at the parking lot site at Finley. Dog owners must comply with park rules, including maintaining their dog on a leash at all times in designated areas only and cleaning up after their dog. Waste bags will be provided.
Q17. Will smoking be allowed?
A. Yes. An area will be designated for smoking and monitored to ensure proper social distancing.
Q18. Will visitors be allowed?
A. Yes. An area will be designated for a limited number of visitors and monitored to ensure proper social distancing and compliance with Program rules. All vehicles will require a parking permit as the parking lot is currently closed to the public. Additionally, there will be an 8pm curfew for Program participants as well as visitors.
Q19. What does security look like for this site?
A. 24/7 security will be provided by a private security agency. Additionally, Catholic Charities staff will be on-site during the daytime from 7am to 7pm.
Q20. Will drugs and alcohol be allowed?
A. Drugs and alcohol will not be allowed on the site. If an individual returns to the site under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, the individual will be allowed on-site so long as their behavior does not present a threat to themselves or others. Decisions to exit an individual from the Program will be behavior-based.
Q21. Will there be an increased presence by the Santa Rosa Police Department?
A. 24/7 security will be provided by a private security agency. Safety concerns will first be addressed by on-site security and elevated to the Police Department, if necessary. SRPD has played a key role in the development of the site and will provide on-going support relative to other public safety priorities in the community.
Q22. Will there be a curfew?
A. Yes. The curfew is 8pm for Program participants as well as visitors. The parking lot will be closed at this time and only vehicles with a parking pass will be permitted on-site.
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness and would like more information about other services you may qualify for please call the County’s Community Intervention Program at (707) 565-4811
The City of Santa Rosa is working to support individuals experiencing homelessness to protect this vulnerable population and the community at large from greater spread of COVID-19. Following the Order of the Sonoma County Public Health Officer on March 17, 2020 and guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the City has taken the following steps to address homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic:
May: Safe Social Distance Site Established in Area of Parking Lot at Finley Community Center
A section of the parking lot at Finley Community Center will be utilized to provide a temporary, managed social-distancing space for unsheltered populations. The site will provide space for 70 tents, with each tent accommodating an individual or couple. The 24,600 sq. ft. parking lot space to be utilized is located between the Person Senior Wing building and the Finley tennis courts; view aerial map. Setup is anticipated to begin the week of May 11, with occupancy anticipated to begin the week of May 18. The site is expected to operate through the duration of the Sonoma County Health Offer Shelter in Place Order.
Mid-April: Motel rooms provided for unsheltered high-risk individuals
Following outreach and assessment, an additional 26 rooms at the Sandman Motel were provided to high-risk individuals who had been living in encampments within the City. Face masks were also distributed to individuals living in encampments.
Mid-March: Motel rooms provided for high-risk residents of Sam Jones Homeless Shelter
45 high-risk residents of Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter, aged 65 or older or with preexisting medical conditions, relocated to rooms at Sandman Motel. This action created social distancing space within the shelter and helped prevent vulnerable individuals from potential exposure to COVID-19. Based on national best practice, strict safety protocols have been implemented in all City-sponsored homeless service operations.
Late March: Sanitation facilities provided for unsheltered individuals
In coordination with the County of Sonoma, portable toilets and hand washing stations were placed at or near known encampments within the City to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the City placed debris containers near these encampments.
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