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Sonoma County campus to house homeless tents

County staff have selected a parking lot at 2550 Ventura Ave. on the County Government Center campus as the location for an emergency shelter site where space for up to 90 tents will be provided for homeless individuals to live temporarily while transitioning into permanent housing.The parking lot sits between Permit Sonoma and the Board of Supervisors offices.

The housing effort seeks to rehouse individuals who are currently living along the Joe Rodota Trail in East Sebastopol/West Santa Rosa.

According to a press release from the County of Sonoma, Permit Sonoma has to review the county’s own permit application before the county’s Homelessness Services Division can begin setting up tents, security fencing and amenities. The county’s goal is to begin transitioning individuals from the trail to the county campus, which is roughly seven miles away from one another, by Mar. 20.

“The emergency shelter site will temporarily increase interim housing but the long-term goal is to provide permanent housing solutions,” said Chris Coursey, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Third District Supervisor. “Today’s actions provide the first step to getting individuals the support they need to transition into permanent housing.”

The temporary housing site will remain on the county campus for six months, thanks to coordination with the City of Santa Rosa. An extension beyond six months would require approval from both the Santa Rosa Fire Department and the County of Sonoma.Fencing will be erected near Administration and Paulin drives along the boundaries of the site. Site managers will implement and enforce rules to protect the safety and security of shelter residents and the surrounding neighborhood. Security will be at the site 24-hours a day, seven days a week to patrol the shelter site as well as the surrounding area. Individuals seeking to live at the emergency shelter site will be screened in advance. Individuals with convictions for violent and/or sexual offenses will be excluded.

The site will be managed by DEMA, a local service provider, under contract with the county. DEMA operates other county-funded sites, including two Project Homekey sites: Sebastopol’s Elderberry Commons and Santa Rosa’s Astro Motel. DEMA’s case management will include on-site support services such as behavioral and physical health care, housing assistance and access to job training for residents of the managed care sites. Case management will be “housing-focused,” meaning residents will work regularly on activities that help prepare them for their next housing steps.

Homeless encampments have become an increasingly regular part of Sonoma County, especially along the Joe Rodota Trail. The recent rains have underscored the urgent need for additional emergency shelter space. According to the county’s Mar. 9 press release, “the current shortage of both interim and permanent supportive housing in Sonoma County has limited the county’s ability to clear the encampments along Joe Rodota Trail, which has repeatedly been closed over the last four years due to public safety concerns.”

The county does not yet have plans for an additional shelter site. However, if a second site is needed, county staff has recommended placing it in a portion of the rear parking area at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, located at 1351 Maple Ave.

“We believe that this model, where we can provide stability and intensive and deep wrap-around supportive services to the residents of this single site, may significantly increase successful housing placements and end the frustrating cycle from short-term housing to long-term Trail camping and back again,” said Dave Kiff, director of the county’s Homelessness Services Division. “We hope that by having enough capacity at the county site we may not need to establish a second site, but no final decisions have been made at this point.”

Coursey and 4th District Supervisor James Gore will co-host a virtual public meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Mar. 13 to brief neighborhood residents on plans for this shelter site and its services and security parameters.

The public will be invited to ask questions or offer comments either live or in writing. Questions and comments also may be submitted in advance by emailing them to Members of the public are encouraged to register early for the Zoom meetings. Register here.

For more information including recordings of the webinars and frequently asked questions regarding the sites, visit Homeless Services Division webpage.

For more information on Sonoma County’s homelessness services please visit

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