Homelessness continues to be a challenge in Rohnert Park and throughout Sonoma County. A one-night snapshot captured in early 2019 identified 129 individuals experiencing homelessness in Rohnert Park. Of those experiencing homelessness in Rohnert Park, 88 percent were unsheltered, meaning that they were sleeping on the streets, in their cars, or other places not meant for human habitation.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share what the city, with help from local partnerships, has been up to this year to address homelessness issues in Rohnert Park. We budgeted $360,000 for homeless-related social services. Those funds help us continue outreach and prevention service partnerships.
This year, the city has been partnering with Catholic Charities, a Sonoma County homeless services agency, to provide permanent housing and outreach services to people experiencing homelessness in Rohnert Park.
The city awarded $250,000 to Catholic Charities to operate its Rapid Rehousing and Homeless Prevention program. This program provides financial assistance and support to help people experiencing homelessness get back into a home of their own. A portion of these funds were also set aside for a program, facilitated by Petaluma People Services Center, to help families in Rohnert Park who were financially impacted by COVID and at risk of losing their housing as a result. Financial assistance can include a security deposit, portion of monthly rent for a few months and assistance paying for utilities. Supports include assistance with budgeting and increasing income and educating tenants and landlords on landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities.
The city also provided funding to increase its outreach support in Rohnert Park. The Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) goes to encampments and engages individuals living there, providing services specific to their needs. Services include connecting with housing options, getting on shelter and housing waitlists, obtaining government identification, increasing income, connecting with medical, mental health and substance use services and meeting some of their immediate needs.
At its Tuesday October 13 meeting, the Rohnert Park City Council considered a contract awarding $10,000 to SHARE Sonoma County, a nonprofit home share matching program that matches “home seekers” with “home providers” in the community that have spare bedrooms. SHARE offers shared housing options in exchange for an agreed level of support in the form of financial exchange, assistance with household and/or personal tasks, or a combination of both. SHARE’s target populations are seniors age 60 years and older and those who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Through this partnership, households that are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness in Rohnert Park will be placed into a home share.
The health and safety of our residents is our highest priority. Encampments often create health public property, creates risks of imminent injury or property damage, or has criminal activity or aggressive behavior from those living in them, the city will clean up the encampment. This includes removal of materials, pruning trees and vegetation and sorting and storing any valuable items. Our practice includes trying to link those in encampments to Homeless services as a first step when we come across encampments.
Addressing homelessness is a community-wide issue; the city cannot resolve it alone. We invite you to an upcoming Homelessness Roundtable meeting. The Roundtable is a group of community members working together to take meaningful actions. The city serves as the convener, provides some support and participates. The next virtual meeting is scheduled for Monday November 2.
Visit www.rpcity.org/homelessness to learn more about the services available in Rohnert Park and/or to RSVP to the Homelessness Roundtable meeting.