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December 8, 2019
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Interception seals the deal Emotions were running high Johnson picks up Las Lomas fumble Rancho eliminates Benicia Annual holiday gift and toy drive Orangeco settles case for price gouging Penngrove man receives life sentence PG&E meteorologists forecasting a major winter storm Cougars prevail in all time classic ‘Fog Bowl’ Healthy food given by NOAH 49er Pet store closes its doors December gets festive in Cotati Visit the Arts and Craft Faire in RP FEMA grants Santa Rosa $1M to ensure effective evacuation routes Another death in California and investigation into E-Cigarette use Fresh faces on the CRPUSD board Nomination period opens for March 3, 2020, primary election Newsom’s vision “cradle to career” Promotions in the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Bad air quality cancels sports Official election winners as projected by the VOICE  RP swears in new council member Homelessness spikes in RP Fun family Christmas events in Cotati Cougars’ season comes to a tearful sad conclusion Home delivery changes Dr. Dominguez and Hawkins named as director and co-director for Hanna Institute University Elementary School to host Maker World at SSU Animal Shelter League of RP receives grant Cotati Council reshuffles seats 73rd Miss Sonoma County competition held at Spreckels More high density in Rohnert Park Put down your phone April is distracted driving awareness month SSU Police make arrest in sexual assault case CRPUSD district’s good news in May Worn American flags laid to rest The Community Voice endorses candidates DA’s office awarded DUI Prosecution Grant Rohnert Park kid joins TCU El Camino graduates Rohnert Park Council says we don’t need another agency Rancho students excel in Poetry Out Loud  SC public safety heroes of the year Don’t drive with an open container Traffic concerns top RP survey SSU Equestrian looks to go national Brace yourself for mosquitos Straus Family Creamery moving to RP Station Avenue project An offer has been made and accepted on Rohnert Park’s corporate yard SMART to offer free rides... SOMO Village overrun by CHP party Discussions on the care facility and apartments Frightful, fun, free Halloween activities Cougars crush Ukiah Election projected winners November 6, 2018  Sonoma Clean Power offers no-cost energy upgrades Rancho advances to semifinals RP’s n­ew Director of Public Safety A stand-off with barricaded, suicidal woman ends safely in RP RP has a new director of public safety Mackenzie leaves SMART RP officers spent Sat. car chasing A shimmer of hope against the angry heavy sky SSU to host North Bay Women of Color conference Rancho’s TAG building, now a reality Mayors of So Co write angry letter Dodd’s college student food bill passes TAG building grand opening Rohnert Park caregiver arrested Sheriff’s canine apprehends convicted felon Latino Alliance promotes first festival Students housing and voting Public invited to give input on Downtown RP Site School board candidates voice opinions Woman stabbed on west side of RP LandPaths connects people to protected land Tech High Girl's Soccer Undefeated champions! AG Becerra issues consumer alert on price gouging in fire-affected communities Learn to docent at the SSU Fairfield Osborn Preserve RP Downtown project underway New signs point in the right direction Where are the ski lifts? Is Cotati being targeted? New alcohol fees for Rohnert Park Sonoma State president testifies for tax relief for disaster victims Fixing Cotati’s roads RP driver identified Burglary suspect found with firearms Special education funding complicated Cube satellite built by SSU students set to orbit the Earth State Farm property steams forward to Station Avenue Scrappers Steal Win RP Foundation issues grant Cotati allows second dispensary New residential building lands approved In Singapore Strait aboard a missile destroyer PG&E has a prediction model USCIS presents free training on how to apply for citizenship RP investigates new site for Corp. Yard Two arrested in RP motel for mail theft  Is Juuling the new norm? Cotati considers $15 min. wage Schools, facilities and bonds: Plans but no money No criminal charges filed against PG&E in northern Ca. wildfires  RP decides on west side Vintage race cars on Sonoma raceway track May CalFresh month celebration Keeping California history alive November is Native American Heritage month... Rancho Cotate Band fundraiser BBQ Jessica Holman: Thirty-five years of Rancho Spirit Titans crush Mustangs Station Avenue gets final approval Cotati Council reviews trash plan Baseball League receives donation from local motorcycle club Cotati Police Chief Parish swears in new officer Garber A Sunday afternoon with retired football players Injury collision closes Golf Course Dr. Giving Kids Smiles in Rohnert Park Neighborhood watch meeting scheduled New Executive Director at SSU DUI driver crashes into 7-1 RP man sentenced to prison 23 years for robbery Adolescent birth rate continues to decline Monitoring wells provide picture of underground water New interim superintendent Krispy Kreme Doughnuts comes to Rohnert Park  Cougars blow past Gauchos  Rohnert Park honors its Veterans and Servicemen CHP reminds all of increased crimes Cougars beat Bulldogs More than 276,000 Dreamers have renewed DACA White receives Matt Walsh Memorial RP and Sunday festivities SSU fraternity banned for five years Name correction: Teen arrested for shooting at RP Grand Jury report on SoCo jail system Former Rancho student convicted A New Experience – Coffee with the Congressman Levine applauds investigation into power shut offs Cotati Chamber of Commerce Oktoberfest Rancho crushes Analy CA Homemaker Association needs volunteers Active duty honorees at the RP Veterans Day program Santa now knows her secret CPI receives funding to offer counseling in schools Caltrans works toward decarbonizing California transportation The Rancho Cotati Rotary Club hosts Humanitarian Award dinner SSU and SCOE offer high school internship RP votes to restrict fireworks Illegal robocalls and spoofing Farmers’ Market party on the plaza RP Foundation to reinstate Small Grants Program Reported sexually transmitted diseases reach epidemic level Fire management assistance granted RP’s new interim police chief Big changes to big project in Rohnert Park A possibility for Snyder Lane to have four lanes soon Rohnert Park road updates Sheriff’s Detectives arrest SR man after controlled delivery of ecstasy pills. Cotati comes out against CASA Llamadas ilegales y spoofing Music alive in Cotati Sept. is suicide prevention month Three arrested; stolen items recovered Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month Paper Delivery Update The evacuation through her eyes So Co DA office awarded grant Penngrove Community Church celebrates 120 years Cotati approves tree lighting City of Cotati has apartment housing parking problems Operators ordered to pay for false advertising violations 2018 local stories which made history Becerra urges Ca. businesses resources to help prevent human trafficking Possible change to parking rules Enroll in Transportation Security Administration Elder abuse rising in So Co U10 Cal Ripken champions say Aloha New start at school board meeting In memory of Greg Beedon City of Cotati urges governor to sign affordable housing bill First Annual Latino Festival draws a large crowd Firefighters called to the front Students at University Elementary discussing the labyrinth Rohnert Park City Council Candidates NHTSA reminds motorists to drive sober this season ArtStart brings art to the RP Senior Center Cotati’s code of conduct School board follows its policy Free school supplies RPDPS receives grant to fight alcohol-related crime Winners of “Discovered: Emerging artists of Sonoma County” Cotati Oktoberfest on the horizon Carrying another on a recovery path Giving students added support R P Foundation gives grants to NOAH and Petaluma Bounty Summit State Bank annual report FEMA awards Sonoma Water grant Holocaust piano now in Cotati RP moves to curb false alarms Doggone hot days are here! Warnings weren’t enough! ‘Stuff the van’ with school supplies Wake up to social crisis Cannabis cultivation and more projects Downtown RP infrastructure project Ca. Dept. of Public Health issues Public Health advisory School district seeks new superintendent March for the blind highlights need for more accessible sidewalks Cougar to Bear — Simmons’ new pelt SRJC picks up local quarterback The Cougars defeat the Jaguars at homecoming New laws take effect Jan. 1 CRPUSD seeking a new superintendent Boards approve plan to offset proposed groundwater fee Technology High School construction on schedule Groundwater sustainability fee adopted in Santa Rosa Plain Rohnert Park City Council all about safety Accordion Festival San Francisco Mime Troupe to perform in Cotati Rep. Thompson speaks at SSU on climate change RP to vote on protecting open space and preventing sprawl Pedestrian jumps into path of SMART Train Coming together to have fun and help others Kids and firefighters compete in RP RP local, Petri Alva, 14, a nationally recognized athlete Superintendent search begins SSU named one of the best universities Verity is hiring to work with survivors RP City Council, not business as usual A young child making a big difference Cotati’s first homicide in 24 years Veterans’ housing to open in 2020 RPPS encourages public to drive sober Issues and recognition but no council meeting RCHS Mascot at Welcome Back Rally Raising awareness on the dangers of SIDS So. Co. is here to connect with you SweetPea celebrates 31 years Seawolves serve up a victory Cotati Council moves ahead Students almost ready for kindergarten Would you make a great foster parent? Grand Jury recommends improvements for So. Co. Water City of Cotati switches to 100% renewable electricity I’m ready, bring ‘em on! Tech High School celebrates 20 years PG&E Wildfire Assistance Program accepting applications for aid Learn to become a naturalist Police and housing topics discussed at Council Coursey on the campaign trail RP voters overwhelmingly renew open space protections Cardinals rout Cougars Planning Commission approves hotel SSI and SSP recipients eligible for CalFresh benefits Five vehicle crash shuts down Golf Course Dr. Happenings at Cotati City Council Trades Intro Program (TIP) leads to career RP City Council: from safety to striping Girls explore STEM possibilities at Tinker Academy Spring Lake Water Bark kickoff Sozo Student Center opens Credo ladies in Trashion show Cougars win behind roaring defensive performance Another long evening at Cotati City council Immigration appointments rescheduled How to help victims of wildfires Polynesia celebrated at annual Pacific Islander Festival Fire storm anniversary New fire station gets final direction Undercover operation identifies prostitution at local massage parlors Red flags fly at all fire stations during “Red Flag” warnings L J principal promises open door policy DUI driver arrested after collision on RP Exp Contact information needed from about 150,000 PG&E customers A satisfied smile Cotati Council makes it short Cotati is open to new county wide voting system Family Justice Center Sonoma County receives grant awards 100 birthdays and more to go Plan approved for Station Ave. park Football in full swing, 3rd win Arrests and charges target Apple stores CalFresh clients get Feb. benefits early Cotati fills Planning Commission The long summer grinds Alert resident foiled attempted burglary of neighbor’s home All about the roads Third DUI driver arrested in RP in three days Santa Rosa doctor overprescribing New leadership delivers new start at school board meeting Man takes own life Bound for a peaceful resting place After sluggish start, Cougars explode RP Improvements Update week of October 21st State Fund offers extended credit to policyholders Annie Rasmussen Celebration of Life Rohnert Park Station Ave. update School district set to begin new year Wrong way bicyclist rides into path of SMART train City, county reach agreement with Homeless Advocates Our words are not enough: Educators call for action First day of school and new friends PG&E Wildfire Assistance Program distributes first checks to victims  Credo Kaplan-Kinsey semi-finalist Focusing on finances... Fire - Community - Businesses Revisiting those who lost it all: October wildfire victims still on the road to recovery Cuts suggested for school district Rohnert Park residents awarded law degrees School Year 2019-2020 for free and reduced-price meals Cattle drive comes to SR Man dies in custody Home-based learning on the rise Home invasion robbery, suspects still at large Travis Jenkins Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist Years to launch SMART will run limited service SMART celebrates a year of service RP Public Safety report card The “Healing Wall” comes to Sonoma County Joint Legislative Wine Committee to meet at SSU Ca. Dept. of Justice announces ammunition regulations Fatal bicycle vs. vehicle collision RPPS investigating sexual assault A slow and painful wait for a downtown RP improvement updates RP road improvements update Take one, leave one – New free library in Cotati Penngrove native set for amazing voyage Cotati votes opposition to oil leases Cotati memorializes victims DMV offices will close for half day Social Security – Care and Beware Urban growth boundary benefits RP Council looks at serious close-to-home issues Fight the flu... get immunized CANCELLATION SC neighborhood sues illegal pot grower Rohnert Park considers firework restrictions Reckless vehicle ends in DUI arrest Do you know the relationship between low impact development and water quality? So. Co. Behavioral Health and Health Services in the county jail Cotati City Council of Aug. 13 USCIS clarifies special immigrant juvenile classification to victims of abuse The Salvation Army expands response to Kincade Fire CHP to check motorcycle safety in local area Water Conservation Car washes and water waste Equifax provides $600 million in consumer restitution Cotati sees its first homicide in 24 years New Column Things to know about PG&E’s Public Safety power shutoff SoCo post offices forced to close Penngrove grassfire destroys buildings Cotati Accordion Festival still a hit after 28 years RP residents provide input in police chief search Forum hosted by WLV for RP City Council candidates Cotati honors and appreciates Stray sways the crowd Showing off rope tricks Sonoma County Fair reviews safety protocols Gun violence in the U.S. and globally Beautifying Magnolia Park When the power is off, treat signals as stop signs Supply giveaways lend a hand to families Police officers inspect inside of car Lowerys help with campaign Yes on Measure W will keep fire stations open Skating during Cotati Kids Day parade Watenpaugh returns to lead CRPUSD Join CASA of So. Co.’s commitment to helping victims of child abuse Safety and power outages Stay indoors to reduce smoke inhalation A day of celebration and tribute to our veterans RP to host community forum for public safety director search Emergency Alert System Test Sept. 10 & 12 Spreckels and Alchemia connects community Help save lives by donating blood Vehicle crashes into house Call to action in Ca. Passenger killed fleeing crash Help with citizenship Consumer alert on price gouging It wasn’t an easy fight but Rancho wins again RP Safety Dept. climbs in remembrance of 9/11/18 New laws on purchasing and concealing handguns Suicide leading cause of death in youths Impersonating pharmacists Pesticide residue consumed by infants and children Ayuda con ciudadanía Structure fire displaces family Back to school for Rohnert Park and Cotati Another tough break for roller derby Fencing in Sonoma County PG&E to conduct inspections by helicopter in Sonoma County Correction to the July 26 issue SSU student receives prestigious CSU Trustees’ Award Voters urged to return vote by mail ballots early RP waits to make update to emergency alert system Cougars slay Dragons School district leaders tackle 1.9m deficit Deputy saves overdosing man using department-issued Narcan SR theft suspect caught after lengthy chase Cotati City Council recommends several adoptions Campaign targets vaping-related illness USCIS updates fee waiver requirements Third pedestrian struck by SMART train Enjoying ribs School district seeking new superintendent Rohnert Park’s Black Blear Diner gets sued Penngrove wastewater pipeline overflows Vote by mail ballots now available for the Nov. 5, consolidated elections Sonoma County 2020 campaign headquarters opening Ca. Senate Fellows Program application period opens Little ones with big Polynesian dancing spirit Sidewalk repair gets big break from City of RP Cotati protests CASA compact New safety power shutoff zip code alerts 'Team Trevor' A football team with a heart King and Queen Early voting center opens RP Health Center celebrates anniversary Imitating major leaguers Rohnert Park waiting for approval for canine program School district balances budget The California Highway Patrol implements a regional effort to save lives RP Council talks about fast trains and lawsuits Reckless driver resists arrests, with help from K-9 Max The USCIS application support center in Santa Rosa closed

Not in my backyard...

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
November 29, 2019

This is a difficult story to write. And a story about homelessness, may be a difficult story to read. Presenting facts and figures without putting a personal face on the issue solves little. We all look at those numbers through our own experiences and biases, right? We can shake our head in agreement, have empathy, wish something more could be done. I suspect most of us just want to live our lives. We drive or walk by the panhandler in the parking lot, on the street corner, or in front of our store.  We thank our lucky stars, that isn’t us or our family. Then the issue shows up in our neighborhood, and the story becomes immediate and personal. Now what?

Let’s start at the state level. “Homelessness is not just a problem for San Joaquin county. It’s a statewide issue. Every major city in California has been hit by the crisis. Across California, the homeless population jumped by 16 percent between 2018 to 2019. With a total of about 130,000 people without a permanent place to live, California has the largest homeless population in the United States.” That quote is from http://sacobserver.com/2019/08/working-but-still-homeless-in-california%ef%bb%bf/ article published in August 2019. Substitute Sonoma county for San Joaquin county and the story remains valid likely is a fair opinion to hold.

So, let’s focus on Sonoma County. Back in 2017 according to the Sonoma County.gov page - “Almost 3,000 people are homeless on any given night in Sonoma County.” They reported a jump of 6% in homelessness following the October 2017 fires. The January 2019 count saw 2,951 homeless folks in the county. A small decline from 2018 but still near the 3,000 count from earlier reports. 66% of those counted were “unsheltered” meaning they had no place indoors to sleep. Over half, 57%, have been homeless for more than a year. 68 percent couldn’t afford to rent. While 48percent reported no job or not enough income to rent.  The full report of the 2019 count can be found at: 

http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CDC/Homeless-Services/Homeless

But there’s more to the story than an annual count full of facts and figures. What exactly does homelessness mean? Defining the term is a first step. As listed on https://www.rpcity.org/services/residential_services/homelessness 

“Characteristics of Individuals Experiencing Homelessness:

- Have Nots – These individuals do not have the resources to be housed, most commonly income. Many benefit from low-income housing and programs that provide short-term financial assistance to help them get into a home of their own.

- Can Nots – These individuals often suffer from complex medical problems including mental illness, physical disability and/or drug or alcohol addiction that keeps them from finding housing or living safely on their own. This group tends to benefit from long-term assistance that can help them maintain stable housing with support.

- Will Nots – These are who choose to not enter shelter or housing even if it is available.”

Which brings me to the origin of this particular story on homelessness. A subset of the “Have Nots” are those who are homeless but live semi-sheltered in their RVs or automobiles. They are in transition – hoping to hang on until they can find more permanent shelter and praying that they and their children do not wind up on the streets. Although they may have a job, and a bit of mobile shelter they aren’t without their problems. One of those problems is where can they park their RV or vehicle without incurring the wrath of business owners or residents in the chosen area? 

Thus, when the caravan of RVs and cars hits your neighborhood – what should you do? Most folks want these folks to have a safe place to park, but the “not in my backyard” feelings are very strong. They worry about safety for themselves and their families. They aren’t uncaring but they want the problem to be elsewhere. They’ll look to the city, country or state to do something about the problem because they feel powerless and unsafe and unable to deal with it at their neighborhood level.

The Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU recently weighed in on this issue. They said:

“The combination of 1) a significant population of unsheltered homeless in Sonoma County;  2) the length of time that such large numbers of the homeless are forced to live “on the street” and unsheltered; and  3) the unconscionably-harsh policy of constantly forcing many of those homeless to move to “another location on the street,” from which they will inevitably once again be forcibly removed, fully constitutes a violation by Sonoma County and it's cities of those individuals human rights.”

My neighborhood is currently experiencing it. Laguna Dr. behind the Target Shopping Center on the west side of 101 off Redwood Hwy. is the “another location on the street,” now. It’s a public street. But the Laguna Dr. community is feeling uncomfortable with it being used for long term, overnight homeless camping in RVs and automobiles. Residents are being asked to sign a petition to the mayor and city council to do something about it. I’m not sure what will happen as a result of this petition. Sonoma County Sheriff's Office policy states 

“431.6   PUBLIC AREAS

The unauthorized use of public areas for the storage of personal property interferes with the rights of other members of the public for their intended purposes and can create a public health and safety hazard that adversely affects residential and commercial areas. The purpose of this policy is to maintain public areas in clean, sanitary and accessible condition to prevent the misappropriation of public areas for personal use, and to promote the public health and safety by ensuring that public areas remain readily accessible for their intended uses.” Public streets are public areas too. The complete policy on homelessness can be found at:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/542ec317e4b0d41ade8801fb/t/5c5e2905e4966be7f74eb195/1549674757525/homeless-persons.pd.pdf

Which brings me to the origin of this particular story on homelessness. A subset of the “Have Nots” are those who are homeless but live semi-sheltered in their RVs or automobiles. They are in transition – hoping to hang on until they can find more permanent shelter and praying that they and their children do not wind up on the streets. Although they may have a job, and a bit of mobile shelter they aren’t without their problems. One of those problems is where can they park their RV or vehicle without incurring the wrath of business owners or residents in the chosen area? 

Thus, when the caravan of RVs and cars hits your neighborhood – what should you do? Most folks want these folks to have a safe place to park, but the “not in my backyard” feelings are very strong. They worry about safety for themselves and their families. They aren’t uncaring but they want the problem to be elsewhere. They’ll look to the city, country or state to do something about the problem because they feel powerless and unsafe and unable to deal with it at their neighborhood level.

The Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU recently weighed in on this issue. They said:

“The combination of 1) a significant population of unsheltered homeless in Sonoma County;  2) the length of time that such large numbers of the homeless are forced to live “on the street” and unsheltered; and  3) the unconscionably-harsh policy of constantly forcing many of those homeless to move to “another location on the street,” from which they will inevitably once again be forcibly removed, fully constitutes a violation by Sonoma County and it’s cities of those individuals human rights.”

The city of Rohnert Park policy and frequently asked questions about homelessness in our community are found at: https://www.rpcity.org/services/residential_services/homelessness. I suspect the city’s reaction to the petition from Laguna Drive residents will be “Enforcing Parking Restrictions - the City has established and enforces restrictions on overnight parking in several locations, including our parks. We also enforce the requirement that vehicles not be parked on public streets for more than 72 consecutive hours in the same location. “

I do understand the viewpoint of other residents in my neighborhood that believe something needs to be done. There has been an increase in minor property damage and theft. Someone took a stone turtle garden decoration off my front porch recently. So, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion, without any proof, that the theft was related to either the RV caravan or to the homeless encampment located west of my apartment complex. For residents, especially those living alone, it is unnerving to know that someone was brazen enough to be outside your apartment door stealing your property late at night. And driving on Laguna Drive with numerous RVs parked on the side of the road is unsafe. Visibility is reduced. There’s an accident waiting to happen. It also alters your lifestyle. If I want to go out on my walks – I’m conscious of the caravan and will choose to walk elsewhere to avoid the area where they are parked. 

But I don’t plan to sign the petition. Until the city finds a safe, secure place for these folks to park their vehicles, I do not want to be part of the problem pushing these semi-sheltered homeless folks into even worse and perhaps unsheltered choices. And I don’t want to chase them to “another location on the street” that might just happen to be your neighborhood and trigger your “not in my backyard...” feelings. I do encourage my city to find a safe, secure parking spot for these modern-day nomads in their RVs and Cars.  By the time this story gets printed, this particular caravan may have moved on; but the problem will still exist – somewhere else in someone else’s backyard.