The homeless crisis hits close to home

Posted on February 13, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The issue of homelessness is no longer a concept but a very real, living, in-your-face reality. Near Oakmont, at the Los Guilicos campus, the county opened an emergency shelter for some of the hundreds of homeless kicked out of their tent city along a Santa Rosa trail. Neighbors and advocates railed against the move, as did First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, the lone dissenting vote on the Board. Amid that drama, and as the ‘lucky’ few were bused to their new Sonoma Valley quarters, a dramatic incident occurred in Sonoma, one that gave a face to public fear and frustration. Ruben Reyes-Gallardo, 29, a Sonoma transient, was arrested for attempted rape and sexual battery of a teenage girl. She was able to fight off the morning attack, which occurred on the paved path near the police department on First Street West. That’s also quite near The Haven, the city-owned homeless shelter operated by the nonprofit Sonoma Overnight Support. The suspect was trouble. Already on probation, he had been “exited” from the shelter (thrown out) for breaking its rules. As for hanging around –  and the area includes the well-used bike path and baseball fields – there’s not much the police can do. Or the shelter: laws (as Gorin notes on page 9) are strict about not over-screening clients that request services… The quick answer is, move the shelter away from where people walk and kids play (and property values climb). That idea was on the minds of many at a public meeting February 11, which Mayor Logan Harvey convened to ”discuss issues of safety and security as well as compassion and comfort.” Alas, while public outrage is cheap, compassion comes at a price. The City spends about $30,000 supporting SOS (and waiving the rent), but the nonprofit has a budget of $600,000. And that’s apart from costs associated with the safe-parking program (mandated by the state) and the auxiliary winter shelter in a Sonoma church. “These goals do not divide us, quite the contrary,” Harvey said. “The road to a solution is long and we will proudly walk it together.”


Has Funky Fridays – the series of weekly summer concerts on the lawn of Hood Mansion, near Oakmont – taken its final bow? If so, the effort went out on a high note, raising $170,000 for County parks over the past four years. But two emerging problems threaten a 2020 encore. One, what was used as the parking lot is now impacted by the county’s emergency homeless shelter next door at Los Guilicos… Two, co-founder Linda Pavlak has moved away, apparently taking the series name with her; Bill Myers (of hiking fame), the other half of the founding duo, wants the series to continue, but with a new name and organizational partner. The Parks Foundation will decide by May, says ED Melissa Kelley, whether the collaboration will continue… Meanwhile, some of that $170k was in turn awarded to a Sonoma Valley Trail project; the revitalization of Maxwell Farms Regional Park; several projects at Hood Mountain Regional Park; and youth programs in Sonoma Valley. That certainly rocks. 


49er fans at sport-friendly Sonoma Valley bars were in the right place to drown their sorrows when the team squandered a fourth-quarter lead and lost the Super Bowl. One gent at the Jack London Saloon was seriously miffed, exclaiming “Jimmy G my A!” At Steiners, Bill V. was more reflective. “It was a good game,” he mused, “until it wasn’t.”


That mega Castle Road estate (120-acres, “hacienda flavored” mansion, six-car garage, wine cave that seats 90… the usual) has great Valley and San Francisco views, as you might expect. But the scenery was different back in the day, when it was the site of a nudist colony. Now, at $11.3 million, there’ll be plenty of closet space. 


— Val Robichaud, [email protected]


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