One of the concerns I hear about from residents is homelessness. This is a highly complex issue without simple solutions. A 2017 count in Rohnert Park recorded 84 people experiencing homelessness.
Residents of Rohnert Park may experience homelessness for any number of reasons. These include loss of employment, mental health issues, drug addiction, lack of available housing and/or the lack of funds to pay for a security deposit.
I’m pleased to let you know that we have recently signed an agreement with the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS) to assist people experiencing homelessness in Rohnert Park with a new Rapid Re-housing (RRH) program.
Rapid re-housing helps individuals and families quickly exit homelessness and regain their footing with a goal of returning to permanent housing. Assistance is tailored to the particular needs of the individual or household. Rapid re-housing is based on the concept of “Housing First,” which emphasizes that finding permanent housing is the first and most important step for those who are homeless to improve their quality of life. This approach emphasizes addressing basic necessities like housing and food before other less critical challenges like seeking employment, budgeting, or dealing with other personal issues. Placing individuals and families into permanent housing has a proven track record of positive outcomes.
COTS has been providing services to the people experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County since 1988. Five years ago, COTS began operating the Rapid Re-housing program with very impressive results: 94 percent of participants remain permanently housed after exiting the program. COTS was recently awarded $1 million dollars from Tipping Point Community and the Redwood Credit Union Community Fund to expand its rapid re-housing services to include families impacted by the October 2017 wildfires.
While based out of the Mary Isaak Center in Petaluma, COTS’s familiarity with Rohnert Park will allow them to move quickly. COTS already has a presence in Rohnert Park, since 2008 supporting formerly homeless individuals and families at the Vida Nueva apartment complex in partnership with Burbank Housing. City funding will allow COTS to assist more individuals and families in Rohnert Park.
COTS will hire staff to assist applicants and provide financial assistance such as paying for application fees, security deposits, last month’s rent, utility deposits, moving costs and in some cases, time-limited direct rental assistance. COTS will also help the homeless find jobs, search for housing, address any conflicts between landlords and tenants and inspect housing for maintenance.
Rohnert Park partnership helps SSU professor to buy home
Part of the new housing in Rohnert Park is dedicated to be affordable to those needing help to buy a home. This includes making 37 homes in the new Willow Glen section available to working families. At the same time, Sonoma State University is challenged to hire professors because of the high local housing costs. In June, we celebrated the purchase of one of the Willow Glen homes by a new Sonoma State professor that will allow him to teach at the University and become part of our community. We are working in partnership with the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County to ensure that this home and the other affordable houses in Willow Glen, remain affordable permanently.