Demystifying homelessness

Posted on March 3, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Despite lots of talk about new plans to reduce homelessness in Sonoma County, things have yet to improve for our unsheltered neighbors.

A small camp in Santa Rosa’s Roseland district was evicted in late February. It was reported that County officials did not respond when asked what was being done to address the latest encampment or how many people had been offered or accepted services.  

Authorities routinely refuse to say what’s being offered and how many and where empty beds are actually available. By law people are allowed to camp in public places when shelter facilities are full. In addition, a Preliminary Injunction requires authorities to post written notices about upcoming evictions, to offer every individual a space that reasonably accommodates their disabilities, if any, and to store the personal effects of those forced to move.

This lack of accountability and transparency also exacerbates public confusion. One Santa Rosa resident wrote that “the city and county provide safe areas for the homeless to reside, food, toilets, showers, medical help and psychological help as well as cleaning up the tons of trash left over from encampments. There are programs offered for drug and alcohol rehab as well as job training, housing placement and reentry programs.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it’s exactly what advocates have been pushing for years.  However, for 2,000 unsheltered human beings here, such safe areas and services simply don’t exist. 

Meanwhile, we know that stability can be offered quickly and inexpensively by means of transitional safe havens (safe parking, RV parking, tent and tiny home villages) with health-protecting hygiene (toilets, hand-washing stations, trash pickup), and services as described above. Those three components are essential. 

We can make giant strides forward in the next two years and our mayors and supervisors are responsible to see that we do. As a community, we must choose whether we’re willing to stand up for justice and human rights or prefer relegating ourselves to Sonoma Shame.

 — Kathleen Finigan, Santa Rosa


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